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The Rocking-Horse Winner by DH Lawrence

The Rocking-Horse Winner by DH Lawrence from The Virgin and the Gipsy & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics, 2004)

This is actually a pretty disturbing piece of writing. It’s about a family that always seem to struggle with money. They live above their means and the mother blames this on being unlucky. She can’t be lucky because she married an unlucky man, and so on. The little boy, Paul, has always heard that the family need money, need money, need money, and his mother explains to him that it’s better to be born lucky than to be born with money: you can lose the money you’re born with, but if you’re born lucky, you’ll always get money anyway. She also says that luck is what gives you money, so it’s not money that gives you luck. Paul takes this to heart. In a big way.

He develops a rather unhealthy obsession with horse racing, you might say. He races on his rocking horse and while he does so, he’s lost to the world. His uncle then finds out that the boy has got more than just a casual interest in horse racing – he’s actually successfully predicting the outcomes, earning him and the gardener (his friend and adult who can help him place bets) a vast amount of money! When Paul is certain of a winner, that horse wins. When he’s unsure, they normally lose. The uncle decides to join in the scheme, but is it going to be more than he bargained for?

It’s a haunting tale, eerie, disturbing. Is it one of those allegories for something again? (To race a rocking horse and claim that you get to where you need to go … gotta be something in that, right?) Or is it just a spooky tale of the paranormal, perhaps some sort of possession, or just a kid with some weird divination skillz? Paul claims the house “talks” – can he hear spirits? Or, is he actually schizophrenic, and this whole story is about a mentally ill child? Many questions, but a young boy ferociously riding a rocking horse and not recognising the world around him does have some chilling Poltergeist similarities. And I really like it! Seriously, this is my kind of story. Psychological elements, spooky things, seeing into the future – fantastic. Well worth a read, and my favourite DH Lawrence short story so far! 🙂

This is my fourth review for the DH Lawrence Challenge 2010.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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