drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," what secrets do each character and the house hide?

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," Paul thinks his wooden horse with no name allows him to predict the winners of horse races. He believes that if he can make the rocking-horse gallop, it will win the race. Paul's mother Hester is in debt to Uncle Oscar, who has given her $5,000 to pay off her creditors. Paul has won this money by betting on his horse. Oscar gives Paul's family more money and tells them that he wants them to move into a better house. In addition, Oscar hires both Mrs Thwaites and Mrs Briscoe as servants for the new house.

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Only Hester and her children knew that Hester could not love anyone. To those outside the family, she appeared to be a good mother, one who adored her children. But Hester and her children knew of Hester's cold affection for them as they "read it in each other's eyes." This was a family secret, unknown to those outside the family.

Uncle Oscar, Bassett, and Paul keep the secret that they are betting on horse races. Paul does not want his mother to know where the winning money has come from, so Uncle Oscar arranges to have the family lawyer say that it came from a family relative. Despite this gift, the house's voices (the house's secret) became more frenetic:

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!

When Paul's mother, Hester, receives the letter about the inheritance from the family lawyer, she hides the letter. Paul and Oscar agree to let her have the entire $5,000 to pay her debts. But it seems Hester wastes some (or all) of this money on luxuries: new furnishings, flowers, and iridescent cushions.

Paul believes that there is some connection between the house's voice and the rocking-horse's magic. This is the biggest secret. Not even Oscar and Bassett knew of this:

Paul's secret of secrets was his wooden horse, that which had no name. Since he was emancipated from a nurse and a nursery-governess, he had had his rocking-horse removed to his own bedroom at the top of the house.

 

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner" what secrets do the various characters keep from one another?

The mother of the boy and two girls pretends to totally adore her children yet keeps to herself the fact that “at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love for any person." Paul is the little boy, and one of his sisters is named Joan. The mother is named Hester.

Paul also has what the text calls a “secret of secrets.” He rides his rocking horse in order to know the winning horse at the derby. This is a secret he keeps to himself until the very end when he is dying. His death is brought on by a brain fever that he catches as he waits to “really know” the winning horse in one of the derbies. Two nights before this derby, Hester finds her son violently rocking his rocking horse in his room. He proclaims that the winning horse will be Malabar, and then he falls unconscious. He wins seventy thousand dollars by betting on Malabar while lying on his deathbed and altogether leaves behind eighty thousand dollars for his never-contented mother. It is sad that Paul does all this just so that he can make enough money to keep his family from always wanting more money—to stop the house from whispering “there must be more money!”

Paul, Uncle Oscar, and Bassett have a secret partnership placing bets on racing horses. They make money based on Paul’s predictions. When Paul is “really sure” about a certain horse winning, they always make money on their bets. However, there are times when Paul does not know for sure which is the winning horse, and in those cases they lose.

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner" what secrets do the various characters keep from one another?

The mother does not love her children. This is a secret she and the children know, but not the rest of the world, which thinks she "adores" them. The mother feels she must "cover up" some "fault" in herself. She doesn't know what the fault is, but it is related to her inability to love.

The big secret that the family shares but is "unspoken" is the need for more money. The house itself seems to breathe that need saying over and over "There must be more money!" However, it is always just a whisper and never said aloud. It is the secret that dominates them.

Paul internalizes that need for more money. However, he keeps it a secret from his mother that he is the one winning the race money. How he does it is also kept from his mother.

The money, which isn't really needed, but wanted, is the way the mother tries to fill the "fault" in herself, but no amount will ever be enough to do that.

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner" what secrets do the various characters keep from one another?

All the major characters in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" keep secrets. Hester does not love her children but she acts as if she does. She keeps this secret that she does not love them. In spite of this, the children seem to know the secret:

Everybody else said of her: "She is such a good mother. She adores her children." Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes.

Hester keeps another secret from Paul by omission. She explains to him that luck "causes you to have money." Hester is not really keeping a secret per se, but she is giving Paul a limited view about what "luck" means. Since she is so focused on money, she omits that luck or good fortune might involve other things: love, family, health, etc.

Paul, in a generous attempt to surprise his mother with money ("luck"), kept it a secret that he could predict the winners of horse races by riding his nameless rocking-horse. Oscar and Bassett also keep this to themselves, not telling Hester or Paul's father. "Paul's secret of secrets was his wooden horse, that which had no name." It wasn't until the end, just before he died, that he admitted he was "lucky."

The more troubling secret that Hester keeps from Paul and others is that she spends all of Paul's winnings on things for the house (and, presumably, a fur coat for herself). Rather than pay her debts, she spends the money selfishly and frivolously.

Hester did express concern for her children but she did not love them and she was preoccupied with money. So, it's difficult to say whether or not she would have thanked Paul or intervened if she had known he was responsible for giving her the money.

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In The Rocking-Horse Winner, the family members harbor a number of secrets.  What are they? How do the secrets impact the story?

Some critics understand the child’s obsession with the rocking horse—riding it frantically for a vision that will win money for his mother, and thereby win her love—in a Freudian way. If we follow this interpretation, we have the deepest secret of the story, only alluded to and never stated: the child’s Oedipal desire for the mother, to take the place of the inadequate father by providing for her as he could not.  Riding the horse becomes symbolic of that desire, an act so intimate that it can only be expressed through symbol, not realistic detail.The “fault” in the woman that she must cover up, then, is allowing that “lack of love” to become a way for the child to do anything to acquire it, transforming a healthy mother-child love into something thwarted and perverse.  The child dies, of course, never finally acquiring his mother in the way he subconsciously wants; indeed, to “win” her would be too transgressive, even for as bold a writer as Lawrence.

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In The Rocking-Horse Winner, the family members harbor a number of secrets.  What are they? How do the secrets impact the story?

Bassett-- family gardener, treats Paul with a serious respect, helps Paul place bets on horses. Formerly worked around horses and racing.

Oscar Cresswell--Paul's uncle and Hester's brother, learns of Paul’s secret, uses him. Sets up fund to funnel money to Hester.

Hester--Paul's mother, incapable of loving others. She feels “her heart had gone, turned actually into a stone."  She is cold, unfeeling, wasteful, and shallow. When given money she begs for. Instead of paying her debts, she spends it on new things. There is no gratitude, depriving Paul of the joy of providing income for his family. Although at the end of the story Hester becomes increasingly concerned about Paul's deteriorating health, she still does not love him, even when he dies.

Paul--young boy tries desperately to find "luck," meaning money, for his mother. He rides his rocking horse furiously because when he does so, he somehow gets the name of the horse that will win the next race, winning a lot of money. For the Derby, he rides himself into a feverish delirium, but he is sure of the winner. His uncle places a large bet for him. Just as he wins a fortune, he dies from the fever, for the sake of making money for the family, particularly his mother.  He is so innocent in his enthusiasm for the game, he directly associates luck with money, so the gambling seems like a natural solution to the problem.

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In The Rocking-Horse Winner, the family members harbor a number of secrets.  What are they? How do the secrets impact the story?

Paul, the young protagonist's secret, of course, is that by riding the wooden rocking horse long enough and hard enough, he is somehow able to intuit the names of the real horses who win races.  As for the other family members, all of the "secrets" of  revolve around the fact that each of them uses Paul for their own gain and care nothing about the child himself.

Hester, Paul's mother, is happy that her son can provide more income for her to blow through.  She is one of the coldest characters in literature.  Her "secret," in my opinion, is her lack of humanity, which leads to her son's death. 

Oscar, Paul's uncle, uses Paul's "gift" as a game.  He is already well-to-do and the boy's ability is just a way to pass the time and accumulate profit from the tips Paul gives him.  Oscar pulls the family deeper and deeper into  the financial abyss. 

Paul father is absent, his mother explaining only that he has "no luck."

Bassett, the gardener, cares more for Paul than his family members, but he is not in a position to affect real change for the boy.  Still, he gets the whole thing started by convincing others of Paul's special ability.  Without Bassett's encouragement, the tragedy may not have occurred. 

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