The Rocking-horse Winner
by D. H. Lawrence
Complete explanation of the lesson included in the NCERT/CBSE Class 11 Elective English book ‘Woven Words’
About the author
H. Lawrence ((1885-1930) was born in Nottinghamshire in England. Lawrence’s father was a coal miner whose days were marked by heavy slog in the mine and heavy drinking at home. The mother was a homely woman, humble, but ambitious. The relationship was rocky, and far from being congenial. Lawrence grew up in such a household. Quite expectedly, the lack of harmony in the house left Lawrence’s mind jarred and turbulent. It reflected in his later life that turned out to be so rebellious, and un-orthodox.
Controversy dogged Lawrence all his life because he wrote so candidly about sex and love. Quite curiously, acclaim and appreciation by eminent literary icons of his time inundated him elevating him to be a trend-setting author . Lawrence wrote short stories, novels, poems and essays. Literary critics loved to critique his works.
Among his famous works are ‘Sons and Lovers’, ‘The Rainbow’, ‘Women in Love’. His controversial sex-laced nivel ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ raised a storm of disapproval and angry castigation by the conservative society of his times. The book had to be banned for its profane content.
The story starts with the account of a sour marriage where the wife had to grapple with want and budget constraints perennially. The husband didn’t earn enough. She had a young son, and two lovely daughters. Sadly for the mother, the natural love of a mother towards her children was absent in her. This made her feel the presence of the children in the house tiresome and vexing. Motherly love seldom flowed from her eyes. Reflecting on such disharmony in the home she felt guilty and thought that there was something lacking her.
The other reason that gnawed at the family’s peace was the over-stretched family budget. Apparently, the family lived beyond their means. They tended to show a facade of affluence that their earnings could not match. It created a ceaseless yearning for money and more money. This plunged the familyin avoidable distress, a lot of bickering, and a turbulent family environment. Although both the husband and the wife had regular monthly incomes, they failed to make a balanced budget. Both the husband and the wife felt dejected and demoralized all the time. Sadly, it did not occur to them to prune their expenses and adjust their life style accordingly.
The craving for money was incessant. It rang in the minds of the young siblings who grew up in an atmosphere of self-inflicted misery. They too learned to sync with the chorus,”There must be more money.”
The son, Paul, often spoke to his mother about shortage of money, and why they couldn’t own a car and had to borrow it from the uncle. The mother had no definite answer, other than saying that they lacked the luck to earn more. Paul had earlier spoken to Uncle Oscar, who stated how good luck brings money to one’s life.
The mother rued about unknowingly marrying a man who was born unlucky. She vented her frustration before her son. In his childlike simplicity, Paul claimed that he had luck in good measure. The bemused mother laughed him off.
Paul rides the wooden horse and sets off on his imaginary journey to find ‘luck’ and fetch it. He frantically prods it using the tiny whip given to him by his Uncle. His energy and frenzy seem unusual to Joan, the little sister. Paul appears determined to continue his imaginary gallop till he finds ‘luck’.
Uncle Crosswell is a small-time horse racing enthusiast who makes his living through betting on the race horses. He got initiated into this sport by Basset, the gardener. He enters the scene accompanied by Paul’s mother, and is puzzled to see Paul striding along so energetically. His surprise knows no bounds when he discovers that Paul was quite conversant with the world of racing. In fact, Paul could name a race horse. It was Sansovino.
Basset discloses that he told about the nitty-gritty of horse racing to Paul who exhibited unusual passion in the sport. To a question from Uncle Crosswell about Paul having been already turned a punter, Basset avoids a direct answer. He asks the Uncle to find it out from Paul. Uncle Crosswell is both alarmed and puzzled thinking how risky it is for a youngster to indulge in betting.
Uncle Crosswell takes Paul on a long drive to talk his way into the young boy’s mind.
The car headed towards Uncle’s home in Hampshire. The duo chatted about race horses. Horse names like Honour bright, Daffodil, and Mirza cropped up.
Soon it emerged that Paul had become a punter in partnership with Basset. Paul had lost his first bet of five shillings, but Basset was generous. Paul’s second bet was with ten shillings that his uncle lent him. Paul was lucky as he won the bet this time. He was richer by 320 pounds. Uncle Crosswell was impressed. Paul disclosed that he was going to bet on the horse Daffodil with 300 pounds, keeping back 20 pounds as reserve. The Uncle was incredulous to see the professional attitude of Paul. In this round, Basset, the mentor and partner of the young boy, was putting just 100 pounds against Paul’s 300.
The uncle-nephew duo heads for the Lincoln Races. They each put in five pounds bets for Daffodil. It is Paul’s first visit to a race. He was agog with excitement.
Paul prods Uncle to join with Basset to make a 3-member betting partnership. They both go to Basset to talk further over the matter. In course of their discussion, Basset reveals that Paul had been in the punting business with him for about a year.
To Uncle Crosswell’s great surprise, Basset discloses that Paul had won 1200 pounds by putting 300 pounds as bet on Daffodil. Uncle demands to see the money, and Basset readily brings it to show it.
Paul’s maturity and his uncanny ability to guess the winner horse leaves the Uncle totally flummoxed.
————————To be continued————