The Rocking-Horse Winner (Lawrence)

Wouldn't it be nice to be rich, even if that wealth came at the cost of other things? If you answered yes, here's another question: what if that cost was your life? D. H. Lawrence's short story "The Rocking-Horse Winner" tells the story of young Paul, who brings in the dough for his family by predicting the outcomes of horse races—for the ultimate price.

AuthorLawrence - D. H. Lawrence
FormShort Story
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureBritish Literature

Transcript

00:19

You didn't think all those diapers and cartons of baby formula were free, did you?

00:24

Okay, so you likely won't get a bill on your 18th birthday for "services rendered" from

00:29

your parental units.

00:30

But still... if you had a foolproof way to make gobs of money, it would be nice to send

00:34

a little green their way. The Hero of D.H. Lawrence's short story The

00:39

Rocking Horse Winner finds himself in this very situation.

00:43

By riding his rocking-horse, Paul achieves a Zen-like state that allows him to accurately

00:48

predict the winners of horse races.

00:51

His mother takes advantage of this situation, and before long, the family is rolling in

00:56

it. Unfortunately, Paul's gift is killing him.

00:59

Literally.

01:01

Which makes us wonder... is what Paul has really a "gift" at all?

01:05

Well, there's no denying the good that comes from it.

01:08

He and his loved ones no longer have to worry about money. They're not going to go hungry,

01:12

or lose the roof over their heads.

01:14

Plus, they can now switch to the three-at-a-time Netflix plan.

01:17

So, in that sense... sure seems like a gift to us.

01:21

But... Paul dies as a result of it.

01:24

Most gifts don't come with the possibility of death.

01:27

Not unless you have a friend who likes to give trick chainsaws for birthday presents.

01:32

So on second thought... maybe this is one ability Paul wouldn't mind... regifting.

01:37

Although... he didn't have to abuse his special talent.

01:41

If he hadn't exhibited greed, or at least let his mother's greed guilt him into overdoing

01:46

it...

01:47

...he'd probably still be alive today, rocking away on his horse and making a comfortable

01:51

profit at the track every other weekend. Many of us have certain innate abilities...

01:56

...but if we practice them to excess, it can cause more harm than good.

02:00

For example, someone might be naturally brilliant on the trumpet...

02:03

...but if he plays every night into the wee hours, his fed-up neighbor might one day burst

02:08

into his apartment and shove that trumpet where the sun don't shine.

02:13

Was Paul's gift really a gift?

02:15

Is the fact that it brought his family wealth all that's important?

02:18

Was his ultimate demise proof that there's really no such thing as a "gift?"

02:23

Or should he just have handled it a little more maturely instead of spending so much

02:27

time... horsing around? Shmoop amongst yourselves.