The Rocking-Horse Winner Summary

The Rocking-Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence


The short story "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence has a fairy tale quality to it. It focuses on a family, in particular the young son, Paul. Paul's mother felt that she had bad luck, and it often depressed her. She longed for more money. The house even seemed to whisper to the family, "There must be more money." When her son asked her about it, the mother blamed the father's bad luck for their lack of money. She said it was better to be lucky than to be rich. Paul declared that he was a lucky person. He had a large rocking horse that he would ride on in the playroom and stare off into space, which frightened his sisters.


When his Uncle Oscar asked him what the horse's name was, Paul explained that he had different names. Last week he was Sansovino, who won the Ascot race. Paul often talked about horse races with their gardener Bassett. His uncle tried to ask Paul if the gardener bet on the horses, but Paul didn't want to talk about it. Uncle Oscar wondered if Paul had a tip for the upcoming Lincoln race. Paul said Daffodil would win. Uncle Oscar didn't believe it because Daffodil was a long shot. Paul made him promise not to tell anyone. He said he only told his uncle because it was the ten-shilling note that his uncle had given to him that started him on his winning streak. His uncle asked how much he was betting on Daffodil, and Paul replied three hundred pounds. His uncle thought he was joking. Paul explained that Bassett keeps it for him because they're partners. He thought Bassett would be betting a hundred and fifty on Daffodil. Uncle Oscar still didn't believe him, but he agreed to put five on Daffodil for Paul. Excitedly, they watched the race, which Daffodil won. His uncle brought him his twenty dollars in winnings. The boy wanted to add it to the fifteen hundred he likely had now with Bassett. His uncle was tired of him talking this way, so he decided he needed to speak to Bassett himself.


When Bassett talked about their system, he explained that sometimes Paul knew who the winner would be "as if he had it from heaven." Then they were able to make a lot of money. He told Uncle Oscar that he keeps the money locked up, but Paul can have it whenever he wants. Uncle Oscar wanted to see the money, so Bassett took him to the garden house. Uncle Oscar wanted to know more about how Paul knows the winner, but Paul wouldn't give him any details.


For the next race, Paul was sure about Lively Spark, so he bet a thousand on him, and Bassett put down five hundred with Uncle Oscar betting two hundred. When Lively Spark came in first at ten to one, Paul had over ten thousand dollars. The system made Uncle Oscar nervous, but Paul explained that he wanted to make some money for his mother so that the house would stop whispering.


They decided to figure out a way to give his mother some of the money without her knowing that it came from Paul. They reached out to a lawyer who decided to dole out a thousand dollars to Paul's mom each year on her birthday for the next five years, claiming it was from a relative of hers. When her birthday came in November, the house had been whispering worse than ever. Paul's mother had begun working for a friend sketching her furs for advertisements, but she made only several hundred pounds per year, so she was still unhappy. When Paul watched his mother open the birthday letter, she did not say anything. Paul later found out she went to the lawyer to ask if she could have the entire five thousand dollars at once. Paul decided to let her have it. After she received her money, the voices in the house went crazy. Paul received a tutor, and new furnishings appeared, but still the house screamed that there had to be more money, which frightened Paul.


At the Grand National, Paul had not been sure about the winner and had lost a hundred pounds. For the Lincoln race, he lost fifty pounds. Paul became odd and overwrought. His mother noticed and suggested a trip to the seaside to relax. Paul insisted that he couldn't possibly leave before the Derby. The mother didn't like him worrying about horse races as the family had a history of gambling problems, but Paul didn't want to reveal to her why he didn't want to leave the house.


Paul's big secret that he hadn't revealed to anyone was his wooden horse. He had moved it to his bedroom when he outgrew the nursery, pretending that it kept him company. As the Derby grew closer, Paul became more tense. Two nights before the Derby his mother was at a party when she had a bad feeling, so she called home to check on her children. The governess assured her they were fine. When his mother arrived home around one in the morning, she went up to Paul's room and heard a strange noise. When she opened the door, she found him riding madly on his rocking horse. When she asked what he was doing, he screamed, "It's Malabar!" His mother didn't know what he meant, but Uncle Oscar replied that Malabar was a horse running in the Derby. Oscar passed along the information to Bassett, and then put a thousand on Malabar at fourteen to one.


By the day of the race Paul had not gotten out of bed since that night. That evening Bassett arrived, so the mother let him in hoping he would improve Paul's ailing spirit. Bassett told Paul that Malabar won, and Paul had made over seventy thousand pounds. Paul did perk up, blabbering on about how lucky he was, how he knew Malabar would win. Paul professed to his mother that if he rode his rocking horse, and get there, he could find out the winner of the race with absolute certainty. That night Paul died. Oscar said to Paul's mother that she was eighty thousand dollars richer, but she had lost a son albeit one who rode a toy to find out the winner of races.




Related Links:

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Literature Summaries
D. H. Lawrence Facts


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