drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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What is the conflict in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence?

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The main events in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" are Paul's conversation with his mother about luck, his discovery of his ability to predict horse races, and his death.

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The main conflicts in the story concern the family's lack of money to keep up with their social status and Paul's attempts to make his mother happy. Paul's mother is unhappy because she is in debt and thinks she needs more money. She tells her son that in order to be rich, one has to be lucky. Unfortunately, she and her husband are both unlucky people. Paul wishes to make his mother happy and stop the "whispering" throughout the house about the shortage of money. Paul is determined to become lucky, and is able to prophetically envision the winning race horses after riding his rocking-horse. After winning large sums of money, Paul gives his mother a thousand pounds, but this does not make her happy. Paul's obsession with making his mother happy through financial gains is futile, and he eventually dies after winning over eighty thousand pounds. Lawrence conveys the message that one cannot find happiness in material objects and money.

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The main conflict in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" relates to the fact that the family does not have enough money for their wants and desires.  This desire for more money lies at the heart of all of the conflict that occurs in the story itself.  Paul senses his mother's desire for more money, which drives him to try to be "lucky", which leads to his rocking-horse madness.  This leads to the races, and Bassett and his uncle teaming up with him.  Once Paul earns money for his mother, it isn't enough, so the added intensity to the conflict comes as he races even harder to try to earn more money.  His mad-dashes on his rocking-horse lead to his illness and eventual death.

The main theme of this story is that greed for money never leads to happiness, and always asks too much in return.  It is a vain pursuit, destined to lead to misery and turmoil.  And that theme is the underlying conflict throughout the story--Paul trying to get money in order for his mother to be happy and to love him.  Paul thinks that if he can be lucky, he will earn his mother's love; the conflict here though is that his pursuit is a vain, impossible one.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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What are main events in D. H. Lawrence's story "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

The first main event in "The Rocking Horse Winner," which functions to set the story into motion after the exposition is established, is Paul's conversation with his mother about luck. Paul's mother tells him that luck is what lets some people make a lot of money—and, since Paul knows how important money is to his mom, he becomes determined to be lucky. Shortly thereafter, Paul discovers his ability to predict horse races.

This new talent convinces Paul to secretly convince the gardener to place bets for him. He anonymously sends his mother a huge chunk of his winnings, and she finally gets to buy the luxuries she's desired. Paul's health is failing, however, and his mother's concern for him won't convince him to rest before the next big race. Paul's health is much worse, and he only barely manages to croak out the name of the winner for the big race before he collapses. His partners run off with the winnings from the race, and Paul dies after hearing the news. These are the most important main events in "The Rocking Horse Winner."

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What are main events in D. H. Lawrence's story "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

All main events in a story will pertain to the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The exposition generally occurs at the start of the story and concerns the moments the author introduces the setting, characters, and conflict. One of the most important events in D. H. Lawrence's exposition that sets up the conflict of "The Rocking-Horse Winner" is the narrator's description of the children and all their toys hearing echoing through the house the "unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money!" A second major event that is part of the exposition is the moment Paul has a conversation with his mother about why their family doesn't have enough money and what luck is. It is at this point in the story that Paul decides he himself is lucky and will be able to find luck; he decides his rocking-horse will be able to take him to where luck is, a decision that helps lead to the climax and resolution of the story.

Rising action concerns all events leading up to the climax of a story. One of the most important moments of rising action is when Uncle Oscar finds out from Paul that Paul is working as partners with the gardener Bassett to place bets on the winning horses of races. A second important moment of rising action is when Paul arranges for his mother to receive an annual birthday gift of one thousand pounds for five years, but to his disappointment, she is not as happy about the gift as he had expected her to be. Instead, she demands of the lawyer to have all five thousand pounds at once, and Paul begins to hear the house scream:

There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w--there must be more money!--more than ever! More than ever!

It is his mother's frenzied response to receiving a monetary gift that most helps drive the story to its climax.

The climax of any story is the turning point of the story; the moment rising action becomes falling action. It can also be the most emotionally intense moment of the story. The climax begins to develop the more Paul becomes obsessed with being certain of the winner of the Derby. The climax occurs at full force when his mother leaves a party, worried about Paul, and opens his bedroom door to find him furiously riding his rocking-horse.

Falling action refers to all events leading up to the resolution. Moments of falling action include Paul having made himself ill with "some brain-fever" and winning over 80,000 pounds at the Derby for his bet on Malabar. The resolution sadly occurs when Paul dies, leaving his mother to feel responsible for his death due to her obsession with luck and money.

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What is the main conflict in the story "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

There is a strange sort of conflict between Paul and his mother in "The Rocking-Horse Winner." Paul is the protagonist, and it is his story. He wants to please his mother, to make her happy, and to gain her love, all by winning money on the horse races and giving it all to her. But no matter how hard he rides his rocking-horse and no matter how much money he wins, she cannot be satisfied. When he sees to it that she receives the sum of five thousand pounds, her reaction is just the opposite of what he expected.

Then something very curious happened. The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening. There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father's school, in the following autumn. There were flowers in the winter, and a blossoming of the luxury Paul's mother had been used to. And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: "There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w - there must be more money! - more than ever! More than ever!" 

Paul is trying what is obviously impossible. It is impossible to get anywhere on a wooden horse. It is impossible to foretell the future. And it is impossible for him to win his mother's love. She is incapable of loving her children, and she will never change. Mothers often expect their children to give them the things their husbands cannot provide. But Paul is only a little boy. It would be years before he could achieve the material success and social prestige she yearns for. No doubt if he had lived she would have pushed him into some career for which he wasn't suited, as mothers will do. He keeps winning money, and she keeps demanding more and more and more. The conflict has to end in disaster for the boy. He kills himself trying to satisfy her demands. Or it might be said that she kills him with those demands. This seems to be the main external conflict in "The Rocking-Horse Winner."

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What is the main conflict in the story "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

The main conflict in the story is the mother's inability to accept responsibility for her own happiness and also her false belief that money will supplant love and provide happiness for her. 

She resents her children (although treats them with gentleness); and both she and the children know it: "They read it in each other's eyes." Everyone in the house beome brainwashed that only money will ensure their happiness and survival: "There must be more money!" Rather than looking inside herself and figuring out how to be a loving person, the mother looks outside toward material things in order to satisfy the void in her life. The impressionable Paul is affected by his mother's disappointment and deduces from his mother's words that luck, happiness, and money are equivalents. Therefore, he concludes that to be happy, the family needs money. (This is obviously false and this is Lawrence's point: to show how materialism is not the correct route to happiness, love, etc.) 

Paul takes it upon himself to find this "luck." He paradoxically reverts to a childlike practice (riding the rocking-horse) while taking on the role of the father in the family. Psychoanalytic interpretations of this story often refer to the Oedipus complex (wherein the child/boy desires to take the father's place; the "riding" takes on a sexual connotation but is still, paradoxically, childish). The main conflict is the mother's desire to substitute money for love, in order to gain happiness. But the resulting conflict is the effect her behavior has on Paul, whose maturation is both interrupted and sped up, his sexual maturation infantilized while his role advanced to that of the father. This is the psychological subtext of the story. How Paul "gets to" his knowledge of the winners is disputable; the point is that he should never have been put in this confusing position at his age: " . . . he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner." 

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence, what is the turning point and conflict of the story?

There are actually two climaxes in the story:  the turning point and the point of highest interest.  The turning point occurs, as the previous editor noted, when Paul and the reader realize that no amount of money can stop the house from whispering.  The incident that makes this idea clear is the mother's reaction to the news that she'll receive a thousand pounds for five successive years on her birthday.  Instead of being content, the mother requests that she receive the entire sum of money at once, and the house intensifies its screams for more money, as the mother wants more things:  new furnishings and luxuries as well as an expensive education for Paul.  At this point the reader knows that Paul's winnings will never satisfy his mother.

The point of highest interest in the story comes later when we see Paul feverishly riding his rocking horse to determine the winner of the Derby.  Here the suspense is very high as we see Paul circumvent his mother's attempts to take away the horse and send Paul to the seaside.  We want to know if Paul will be successful, if winning the Derby will have any effect on the house, if it will take too much toll on Paul's health, if the mother will change.    As the mother rushes home from the party, the suspense builds as Paul is shown frenziedly riding his horse, and announcing the winner "Malabar" as he falls unconscious with brain fever.

The conflict in the story is complicated.  It is more an internal conflict caused by external factors.  Paul desires his mother's love and happiness.  We know the mother equates money and happiness, and this connection is seen in the house's whisperings.  Paul is willing to sacrifice himself to make his mother happy, much like today people will work themselves to death to provide more luxuries for their family.  But the truth of the matter is, the more people have--such as Paul's mother--the more they want.  Being happy requires changing values and priorities.  So the conflict can be defined as man fighting a losing battle against human nature.

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence, what is the turning point and conflict of the story?

Another significant turning point in the short story "The Rocking Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence is later on, when the boy starts to behave in an out-of-control sort of way. Even though this happens right at the end, this seems to mark the point where the mental and emotional strain has become so unbearable that the boy's mind begins to crack, and his personality to unravel. He has enjoyed the competition and ambition of winning money on the horses up until now, but I think he reaches a point where he knows that enough will never be enough, but he can't stop 'riding' the business of gambling. This is signified by the demented crazy way he rides his rocking-horse at the end, spurred on like a riderless horse in a race - with no destination.

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In D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner," what message does the author wants to convey to readers?

Among the themes eNotes.com lists for D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner," the two that strike a chord with me are greed vs. generosity, and responsibility.

Paul, the young boy in the story, deeply feels his family's need for money. It is not only stressed by his mother, but the very house seems to whisper it to him. The child believes that by riding his rocking-horse, he will be able to predict what horse will win at the races. This plan actually works, but no matter how well he does, the need for money only grows until it drives Paul out of his mind—drives him to "ride" his horse to a state of collapse. As he lies dying, he learns that the horse he had picked has won the big race, and there is an enormous amount of money for the family. He tells his mother, ironically, how lucky he is—believing as his mother had said, that luck leads to financial success. Hester's brother (Uncle Oscar) is appalled at the situation. He says to his sister, whose "heart was a stone:"

...Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil...he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner.

In terms of parental responsibility, Paul's parents' job is to care for their children and allow them to be children, not to transfer worry and obsession over finances onto the children. Paul's mother and father are irresponsible, never truly dedicated parents, and obviously unsuccessful in finding a proper way (working and budgeting) to pay the bills. Instead of showering her son with love and providing him with a sense of well-being, Paul's mother explains their poor financial state by blaming it all on her husband's lack of luck! Paul is too young to have to shoulder such a heavy burden, but he does, and he starts riding to make money.

With regard to generosity vs. greed, Paul is the generous member of the family who turns over all of his profits to the family with the hope that it will improve the constant worry over money. However, Paul's careful planning is confounded by his greedy mother who takes the 5,000 he (secretly) makes available to her, and spends it all on things for the house, rather than investing it or saving it. It is Paul's generous nature that motivates him to earn more money when the first "installment" disappears so quickly and leaves the family no better off than they were before. This generosity is what ultimately pushes the boy beyond his physical, mental and emotional limits, and eventually robs him of his life.

What is Lawrence's most important message to his reader? For me, it is that family is more important than things. Parents are adults and need to act as such in order to take care of their children. Nothing else is of importance. By assuming responsibility to the family, bills will get paid and the family will thrive in an environment of love. More money can be made by working harder, but family is the most precious resource people can have, and it must be guarded and cared for as such for it is irreplaceable.

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