Monday, August 27, 2012

Reader's Diary #858- D.H. Lawrence: The Rocking Horse Winner

There are a few literary works I can never seem to remember whether or not I've read them. Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches and D.H. Lawrence's "Rocking Horse Winner" both come to mind. Thankfully I've been documenting everything I've read for the past 5 years and in that time at least, I can say without a doubt that I've not read them. Today, I finally— and let the record show— read "The Rocking Horse Winner."

For the rest of you who haven't read it (though I realize it's a classic and there's a good chance you have), a brief synopsis: The Rocking Horse Winner is about a family living beyond its means in order to keep up appearances. The mother attributes this to a lack of luck. Luck, she explains to her son Paul, is "what causes you to have money." The boy, who had received a rocking horse for Christmas decides he is lucky. Climbing onto the rocking horse he commands, "Take me to where there is luck!" And magically, when Paul stops riding he sometimes knows the winners in the next horse race. He gets the gardener, and eventually his uncle, to help him place bets and Paul is able to provide for his mother. Eventually, however, the rides get more and more intense, taking their toll on Paul's health.

What I found most interesting about this story is that it doesn't seem to be about luck at all, but ambition. While there is a supernatural element (as true luck would be), Paul works hard for his gambling earnings. So hard, in fact, that it consumes him. Here's my theory: Lawrence's story is actually a warning against ambition. However, when this was written (back in the 1920s) as is the case today, it was not a popular idea to condemn ambition. People equate it with laziness and freeloading. The idea of being happy with what you have doesn't exactly fuel the capitalist machine. So, I suspect Lawrence buries his message somewhat under the pretense of luck. Is it buried too much? I'm not sure. Thoughts?

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Perogyo said...

Looks like we read similar stories today, delving into ambition and luck (or lack thereof) in the early 20th century. I read The $30 000 Bequest by Mark Twain today.

Teddy Rose said...

As many Classics as I have read, I have not read this one. I'm adding it to my list.

Sorry for my absences, summer has been crazy. Given Gore Vidal's recent death and a conversation I had with a friend, I am reading a short story collection by Gore Vidal. I posted my review of one of the stories, The Robin, here: