A Feminist Reading of D.H. Lawrence’s

The Rocking Horse Winner

The man that does not know sick women does not know women.
- S. Weir Mitchell

"The Rocking Horse Winner" is the story of a boy’s gift for picking the winners in horse races. An omniscient narrator relates the tale of a boy whose family is always short of money. His mother is incapable of showing love and is obsessed with the status that material wealth can provide. This paper will explore the premise that D.H. Lawrence presented the figure of the mother as the villain; a loathsome, unloving character with no commitment to genuine values. This evil mother figure will ultimately be the "male-destroyer" by turning her "nameless" husband away and, in essence, killing her young son, Paul.

Hester, Paul’s mother, is incapable of loving others. "Only she herself knew that at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could feel no love, no, not for anybody./ Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew. They read it in each other’s eyes." (RHW) The mother is not only obsessed with money, but she is also irresponsible with the money she does get. When Paul arranges through his attorney to give her a thousand pounds a month from his winnings, she immediately begs for the entire amount. However, instead of paying her debts, she spends the money on new things for the house. This results in an even greater need for more money. She also does not express any thanks for this sudden windfall, depriving Paul of the joy of providing the much-needed income for his family. "She was down to breakfast on the morning of her birthday. Paul watched her as she read her letters. He knew the lawyer’s letter. As his mother read it, her face hardened and became more expressionless. Then a cold and determined look came on her mouth." (RHW) The vivid description of the mother’s face hardening and her look, a cold one, is characteristic of a villainous woman- the femme-fatale. Paul asked her if she has received anything nice in the mail for her birthday. The mother responds in a cold and absent voice. Then "went away to town without saying more." (RHW) This coldness of heart, the neglect of her son, the villainous qualities that run throughout the story will ultimately be the cause of Paul’s untimely death.

Although at the end of the story Hester becomes increasingly concerned about Paul’s deteriorating health, she still does not love him, even when he dies. At the beginning of the story, it is stated that "at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could feel no love, no, not for anybody." This image is repeated at the end of the story, when Hester sits by her son’s bedside "feeling her heart had gone, turned actually into a stone." Every fairy tale, myth, or cartoon I can remember from my youth, all had people turning into stone when their eyes have feasted upon the wicked witch or possessed being. Hester’s heart turns into a stone because she embodies the wicked witch, the one who has the power to turn others into stone; to kill them with an inner selfishness and neglectful tendencies. She does eventually succeed in her villainous attempts by turning her son Paul into stone when he dies at the end still trying to make his mother happy with his luck.

Before he dies Paul asks, "Mother, did I ever tell you? I’m lucky," she responds, "no, you never did." However, the reader remembers that Paul did, indeed, tell her that he was lucky earlier in the story. Since she pays little attention to him, she does not remember this. In fact, this earlier conversation that Paul has with his mother is a pivotal part of the story. Paul senses his mother’s "cold heart" and tries in some way to reach her.

"Mother, why don’t we keep a car of our own? Why do we always use uncle’s, or else a taxi?"

"Because we’re the poor members of the family," said the mother.

"But why are we, mother?"

"Well- I suppose," she said slowly and bitterly, "it’s because your father has no luck."

"Is luck money, mother?" he asked, rather timidly.

"No, Paul! Not quite. It’s