The Hidden Truth
The plot in “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence reveals to the reader conflicts between Paul and his mother using different levels or forms of secrecy. There are secrets hidden throughout the house that leads Paul and his mother to an unpleasant life. The first level of secrecy is the actual secrets that Paul and Paul’s mother keep from each other. The second form of secrecy is that D. H. Lawrence uses a story telling style of writing. This way of writing in itself holds many secrets. Finally, the third level of secrecy is through the use of symbolism.
Paul’s mother tries to show others that she is a good mother even though “at the center of her heart is a hard place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody” (Lawrence 524). The children know their mother has this block for love and it is Paul’s goal to find love from his mother. His mother’s only obsession is to have money. According to W. R. Martin Paul’s mother feels that if she has money her problems will disappear and she can obtain that “high social class” she does not deserve to be in (65). This adds conflict because there is a child that is neglected by his mother and a mother who is only interested in herself and the social class she lives in.
Paul’s secrets add conflict in the story because the secrets separate him and his mother and eventually lead him to his death. Paul rides a wooden rocking horse that his parents gave to him as a gift. While riding a voice will sometimes magically whisper the next week’s winner in the upcoming horse races. Without his mother knowing, Paul will ask the young gardener, Bassett, to place bets on horse races behind her back. Then he gives his mother all the money that he earns hoping it will solve her problems. There is a miscommunication problem between Paul and his mother because Paul is able to gamble behind her back. Paul also hears the cry, “there must be more money” echoing through the house’s walls (Lawrence 525). “Paul . . . takes upon himself the intolerable burden of attempting to solve mother’s ‘problem’ . . . the lack of money” (Jinkins 88). He takes this challenge hoping to receive his mother’s love in return. Instead Paul rides himself to his death because he is unable to meet his “devouring” mother’s needs (Jinkins 89).
D. H. Lawrence also shows conflict between Paul and his mother through a second level of secrecy. He writes the story using the style of story telling or a fantasy style of writing. “The Rocking-Horse Winner” starts off with “there was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust” (Lawrence 524). According to Junkins “mother is the poor, unsatisfied fairy princess who yearns for happiness; Paul is the gallant knight on horseback who rides to her rescue” (88). Lawrence uses this form of story telling to show the reader the conflict Paul has when trying to win his mother’s love by giving her riches.
Lawrence uses a third type of secrecy that deals with symbolism. There is a short passage where Paul’s mother comes to a realization of what Paul has been doing with his rocking horse. This passage starts off by mother “switching on the light . . . Suddenly it lit him up . . . and lit her up, as she stood . . . in the doorway” (Lawrence 534). This lighting of the room caused Paul’s mother to see her son in his madly sense of desire to make it to his lucky place, and hear the secrets Paul has been hearing all along (Martin 64). In this quote, Lawrence also refers to the rocking horse as a wooden horse. It was mentioned earlier in the story as a wooden horse, but only as a detail note. Now when Lawrence refers to the rocking horse as wooden Lawrence symbolizes the toy horse as being Paul. The wooden horse could become reality like the horses Paul has been betting on, but there are springs that are holding the toy horse down, keeping it in place (Martin 65). The springs keeping the horse down symbolize Paul’s mother who is keeping Paul down (Martin 65). Paul’s mother never showed him any love so instead of Paul acting like a boy he devoted it trying to win love from his mother. In the last part of the quote Paul’s mother sees what her son has been doing with the rocking horse, but her greed for money causes her to stand there in her “pale green and crystal dress” (Lawrence 534; Beauchamp 32). Paul’s mother standing there in her sparkling dress symbolizes her stone heart that shows Paul no love (Martin 65).
D. H. Lawrence uses secrecy and symbolism when he chooses the horse’s names in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Lawrence chooses the horse’s name Lancelot which “suggests artificial love” (Fitz, 199). Lancelot is also the same horse that Paul lost his bet on. This is ironic because Paul thinks that winning horse races and making money will bring him his mother’s love, but he lost his money and Paul thinks, his mother’s love, on a horse that stood for artificial love. Lawrence also named a horse Daffodil. A Daffodil is a “sexually-charged flower” according to Fitz (199). Daffodil is the first horse that Paul bets on with Bassett. This is ironic because sometimes sexuality is defined as love. So Daffodil started a, love-charge, for Paul to gain love from his mother.
“‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ is intended to make us feel emotional as well as intellectual revulsion from the inorganic death-in-life of a family in the middle-class” (Steinbeck, 391). D. H. Lawrence used multiple forms of secrecy to make this story a classic. He did not only write a story that had a good plot line, but a story that had many in depth topics. The way the conflicts were shown throughout the story between Paul and his mother using secrecy was magnificent. D. H. Lawrence is an excellent writer and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is a prime example of the talent that he has.
Beauchamp, Gorman. “Lawrence’s The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Explicator 31.5 (1973): Item 32.
Fitz, L. T. “‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ and The Golden Bough.” Studies in Short Fiction 9 (1973): 199-200.
Junkins, Donald. “‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’: A Modern Myth.” Studies in Short Fiction 2.1 (1964): 87-89.
Martin, W. R. “Fancy or Imagination? ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’.” College English 24 (1962): 64-65.
Steinbeck, John. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Modern Fiction Studies 9.1 (1965): 390-391.