Money Obsession in David Herbert Lawrence's The Rocking-Horse Winner
We have all heard the expression, "Money makes the world go round." But does this make it worthwhile to abandon happiness in order to gain more of it? David Herbert Lawrence reveals the folly of substituting money and luck for family and love in "The Rocking-Horse Winner," the story of a woman's insatiable need to become rich, and her son's struggle to gain her approval.
The mother, Hester, obsesses over money. She comes from a fairly rich family, seemingly, as "there was never enough money ... not nearly enough for the social position which [the family] had to keep up" (363). She grows bitter through the years of her marriage not only due to her unluckiness (for "'[Luck is] what causes you to have money'" (364)), but also due to the presence of three children.
These children are nothing but a burden to her. Because of this, she treats them all the more lovingly in public so as not to draw the suspicion of others. Even so, "when her children were present, she always felt the center of her heart go hard" (363). She is unsure of the reason why she dislikes them so much, but it seems obvious: they require the spending of money that might otherwise be going toward satisfying her expensive tastes.
This bitterness seeps into the very house, and it does not escape her children. The family spends so much money to maintain their image that they become entrenched in debt, and the house constantly whispers of it: "There must be more money! There must be more money!" (363). The children hear it just as well as their mother, and it is no surprise that eventually her son, Paul, becomes curious of it.
He seeks to learn of his family's situation, but Hester responds only that his father is unlucky. Indeed, she must also be unlucky, or else she wouldn't have married him. In an attempt to cheer his mother's bitterness, Paul proclaims that he is lucky, but this statement only seems to further irritate Hester, so he is driven to truly become lucky and prove her disbelief wrong.
Paul seeks the clue to luck in his toy rocking horse. By riding for long periods of time, he can foretell the winner of the next big horse race and then bet money on it. "'I started it for mother,'" (369) he tells his uncle Oscar when worry of his success arises. Paul hopes to help his mother and stop the house's whispering be being lucky.
So with the aid of his uncle, Paul invents a plan to give his winnings to Hester anonymously. Starting on her next birthday, Paul decides to give Hester a thousand pounds a year up to the five thousand he has saved for her. But instead of being content with receiving her five thousand pounds in increments, she asks if "the whole five thousand could not be advanced at once, as she was in debt" (370). Paul is eager enough to oblige, despite his uncle's warning against it.
The whispering does not stop, and the family does not climb out of...