The novel ‘The rocking-horse champion’ by D.H Lawrence revolves around a young boy named Paul and his unhealthy fascination with horse racing. The fascination comes from a desire to still be fortunate, which he believes is preferable to becoming wealthy. This article would include an interpretation of the narrative focusing largely on the philosophy of materialism. Materialistic living principles lead to a life of unhappiness and disaster.
Hester exemplifies the unsatisfied and self-loathing individual. She has many wonderful things in her life, including her three children and husband, whom she completely neglects in her never-ending search for more wealth. Hester is incapable of love: “Only she herself knew that at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody” (Lawrence 1). This emotionless character of Hester is driven only by the need for more money. It’s like a drug that keeps her alive. Hester is a hypocrite in society where she is acclaimed to be an ideal mother and ideal wife. Greg Bentley wrote in, ‘Hester and the Homo-Social Order’: “Hester wears the role of motherhood just as the emperor wears his new clothes.”
There is always a perpetual need for more money in the house and Hester, in her agitation, endeavors to find an occupation. She however fails at this and it begins to take a toll on her: “The failure made deep lines come into her face” (Lawrence 1). The need to find an occupation stems from a feeling of disappointment she has in her husband who is not as successful as Hester wants him to be. Greg Bentley goes on to write: “Hester suffers the mental and physical marks traditionally associated with the conventional workingman” (Bentley 34). It is more reasonable to cut back on expenses but the materialistic nature of the Hester Cresswell and her husband shows its head again. They measure each other’s worth by what they possess and their expensive tastes in things.
Paul’s gambling addiction is synonymous to his mother’s need to always have more and to always have luck on your side. He adopts the notion that luck is good from his mother during a conversation they had where Paul wants to be lucky in life: “Well, anyhow, I’m a lucky person” (Lawrence 2). In the next days that followed, luck became an obsession to Paul. This is unhealthy for a child his age: “Thinking of nothing else, taking no notice of other people, he went about keeping to himself, looking for luck” (Lawrence 2). This determined search for luck was all in an effort to please his mother who had unknowingly passed on her obsession to her son. Paul starts betting on horses in the Derby together with his uncle Oscar and the gardener Bassett. He gives a sum of his winnings to his mother who at each turn seems to need more. Daniel. P. Watkins writes in his book, ‘Labor and Religion’: “He is a laborer for his mother, to whom he gives all of his money, only to find that the more he gives the more she needs” (Watkins 297).
Paul becomes increasingly fearful that he has lost his abilities to pick on the winning horse when he fails to predict correctly in some races. It should be noted how a good and creative gift can be turned into a fearful thing in the mind of Paul. He becomes more isolated in his thoughts. Daniel. P. Watkins writes again: “He is never satisfied with what he produces because this in no way relieves the pressure his world places on him and thus his anxiety and alienation grow to the point of destroying any sense of real personal worth . . .” (Watkins 298). Paul succumbs to this heinous life he had plunged in and dies after making a lot of money for his mother.
Mr. Cresswall’s abstract involvement in the family shows that he valued his work more than creating a mutual relationship with his children and wife. Little is known of his occupation: “The father worked in some office in town. But though he had good chances to be successful, this never came to anything” (Lawrence 1). He is almost never mentioned by his children and his wife only speaks of him as a failed, unlucky man. D. H. Lawrence clarifies the relationship between Paul and Oscar: “Uncle Oscar is presented as a father figure evidenced not only in the fact that he is the only male adult consistently present in the story, but more importantly in the way he expresses his relationship to Paul in paternal terms” (Watkins 299). Together, the trio of Paul, Oscar and Bassett form a group whose sole purpose is acquiring money. It is important to note that the sole purpose of Bassett and Uncle Oscar was materialistic which criticizes the kind of company Paul was keeping. Both Oscar and Basset can be said to have had a bad influence on Paul: “The child had never been to a race meeting before, and his eyes were blue fire” (Lawrence 6). It beats logic to introduce a child to gambling and more so by a relative.
The susceptibility of children to their environment is incredible. A family whose sole purpose is to enrich themselves create a home that is barely functional as depicted in Paul’s family. Happiness and fulfillment is never purchased but it can only be invited into a person’s life through appreciation of what a person has. Tragedy awaits all those who put money and title above everything else in life.
Bentley, Greg. Hester and the Homo-Social Order: An Uncanny search for subjectivity in D.H Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner”. 2010. Print.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “Piano.” Literature and the Writing Process. 8th ed. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan Day, and Robert Frank. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. 294-304; 620
Watkins. P. Daniel. Labor and religion in D. H Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner”. 2002. Print.