Rocking Horse Winner Theme Essay Outline

As the story begins, luck seems to be simply be a matter of chance, and perhaps more specifically chance which has to do with material and superficial conditions. The first explicit discussion between the characters on luck comes when Paul asks his mother about money and, tellingly, conflates the word "lucre," which means money, with "luck." However, the further Paul asks his mother about luck, the more it becomes apparent that luck is something much more; and at the end of their conversation it is something which Paul must prove to his mother, since she does not believe him. When Paul rides his horse, he speaks of luck as a place which he needs to get to.

One could say justifiably that this story is about love, the inability of love, or how love comes too late. The story begins with the impossibility of love, specifically of Paul's mother loving her children, due to her self-centeredness. In contrast, Paul intensely desires to get his mother's attention by proving that he is lucky, which is to say that he desires her love. His success and luck in gambling seem to only drive her further into selfish desire, but it turns out that the self-destructive aspect of his obsession begins to catch her attention. However, it is not until it this obsession has consumed Paul that his mother makes her first real move of concern and love towards him.

From the very first paragraph of the story, outer appearances are placed in contrast to inner realities. Moreover, although it is assumed that to other people the hidden tensions between the two levels may not be apparent, Lawrence describes all the characters within Paul's family as having a sort of unspoken awareness of what is going on within each other. Although the parents do not seem to complain explicitly about not having enough money, their anxieties come across very clearly and powerfully to their children in the form of the whispering of the house. Paul's mother, in particular, is not very forthright with her feelings, preferring to keep them bottled up within herself, such as when she does not directly speak of her dissatisfaction with the gift Paul secretly gave her but just says that it was "Quite moderately nice."

The driving force of the story is desire: desire for money, luck, love, recognition, expression. In other words, there is always something lacking which ends up producing strong, though not always recognized, emotions. Paul's mother desires more money but never speaks so explicitly about this desire; the house does it for her. Likewise Paul desires his mother's love and recognition. Every desire poses itself as an image of fulfillment, especially for Paul, who imagines a "there" which he can "get" to. However, the fulfillment of this desire - his greatest gambling win and his winning his mother's love - ends up consuming him so entirely that he dies.

The reaction of almost all the characters towards the tensions between inner and outer in the story is, for the most part, to remain silent. Uncle Oscar takes interest in Paul for his precocity in predicting races, but never tries to figure out how it is that Paul gains his insight; or if he does know, then he says and does nothing about it, despite the destructive path it leads Paul to take. Ironically, this silence makes problems and anxieties even more clear and compelling to everyone in the family. What the characters do not say, the house whispers or shouts to them obsessively, so that they can never escape their problems and anxieties.

Although some inner anxieties, which are left unspoken by the characters, end up being articulated by other forces such as the whispering of the house, there are also certain emotional realities which remain unnoticed or only sensed in the dimmest of ways. For the reader and Paul's mother, it is not until the end that we "catch" Paul in the middle of one of his rides; though we may have seen him "urging" his horse on early in the story, the connection among Paul's gambling insight, his madness, and the rocking-horse is not clearly established until the final revelatory scene. Before then, Paul is anxious to keep what he is doing a secret from everyone, even his gambling partners.

In the beginning of the story, Paul is, along with his sisters, still under the care of their nurse. However, by the end, he is beyond everyone in his family, even his mother, who at last wants to love him. For Paul, it is not so much the school that he ends up being able to attend or the tutors whom he works with, but his desperate and obsessive riding of his horse in order to gain gambling insight which at once releases him from the bonds of childhood while at the same time prevents him from developing in a healthy manner. He ends up a kind of exaggerated child, possessing extreme childlike passions and fascinations, without cuteness and pliability.

The fantasy like short story “The rocking horse winner,” is about a young boy who believes that if he has more money he will be more loved by his mother. The author, D.H. Lawrence develops a theme throughout the story that money and social status can be a destructive force. The story is about a young boy named Paul who is gifted a rocking horse that seems to have super natural powers. Paul begins to take on these supernatural powers which allow him to commute with his rocking horse. Paul realizes that he can communicate the winners of local horse races through the rocking horse and begins to use it to gamble for money and his mother’s affection. However, as Paul becomes more obsessed with winning money and affection he falls ill and in the end Paul tries too hard to win his mother’s love and dies. The relationships which result in conflict are between Paul’s mother and father, between mother and Paul, Oscar and Paul and Paul and himself. Thus, the theme is revealed by the use of relationships, and symbolism which in the end leads Paul to his death.

The Theme

D.H. Lawrence accomplishes the theme by using dramatic relationships with the characters. Paul’s mother, Hester is determined to fit in with society but she does not notice that her desires for materialist things are ruining her family. This becomes very apparent in a conversation Paul has with his mother on a shopping trip. Hester gives her son ill advice when she makes him believe that being lucky is the key to becoming rich. At the time Hester doesn’t know that this advice will have a fatal conscience on her son. Paul shows he is determined to have his mother’s attention when he says “I’m a lucky person”. It isn’t until Paul’s death does his mother realized that her greed and desire for materialist things leaves the mother longing to have her son back. It is then that she realizes her superficial ways is what caused the death of her son.

The Symbolism

Throughout this story there are many uses of symbolism. The use of symbolism is important in revealing the theme to this short story. The biggest use of symbolism is the wooden rocking horse, with its supernatural power and Paul’s determination to use it to find out the winning race horses. Paul is determined to achieve social status and money by finding the winners, as an example he says “now, take me to where there is luck!” However, the rocking horse ends up taking Paul’s life. The whispering in the house symbolizes the desire to please his mother so that the family can stay in the social class that they are accustomed to. It is the need of the mother, Hester, to have the best things in order to keep their stature. “There was never enough money,” which Paul can hear through whispers in the house which lead him to find a way to please his mother and in the end the restless pursuit of money caused his death. The symbolism unrolls the theme by Paul’s wooden rocking horse, his wild eyes and the whispering within the house

The Summary

In summary, the desire for money and social status on the part of Paul’s mother, Hester, ends up in taking Pau’s life. The author, D.H. Lawrence reveals the theme exceedingly well through the use of relations between the engraved characters and the symbolic inferences. Paul in the end receives the attention and love which he longs for, but unfortunately his mother realizes this too late. The author in the end succeeds in revealing the theme which makes this a well-developed short story about morals.


Lawrence, D. H. (2014). The rocking horse winner. Classic Short Stories. Retrieved from Mills, J., St. John, E. (Producers), & Pelissier, A. (Director). (1949). The Rocking Horse Winner. [Motion picture]. UK: Two Cities Films.


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