The Rocking-Horse Winner by Shmoop
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The Rocking-Horse Winner by Shmoop

August 14, 2019

The Rocking-Horse Winner, a la Shmoop. Are
you ready to rock? After all your parents have done for you,
wouldn’t it be awesome if you could one day repay them? Like… in cash? They probably have an itemized
list somewhere of all the stuff you owe them for. You didn’t think all those diapers and cartons
of baby formula were free, did you? Okay, so you likely won’t get a bill on your
18th birthday for “services rendered” from your parental units. But still… if you had a foolproof way to
make gobs of money, it would be nice to send a little green their way.
The Hero of D.H. Lawrence’s short story The Rocking Horse Winner finds himself in this
very situation. By riding his rocking-horse, Paul achieves
a Zen-like state that allows him to accurately predict the winners of horse races. His mother takes advantage of this situation,
and before long, the family is rolling in it.
Unfortunately, Paul’s gift is killing him. Literally. Which makes us wonder… is what Paul has
really a “gift” at all? Well, there’s no denying the good that comes
from it. He and his loved ones no longer have to worry
about money. They’re not going to go hungry, or lose the roof over their heads. Plus, they can now switch to the three-at-a-time
Netflix plan. So, in that sense… sure seems like a gift
to us. But… Paul dies as a result of it. Most gifts don’t come with the possibility
of death. Not unless you have a friend who likes to
give trick chainsaws for birthday presents. So on second thought… maybe this is one
ability Paul wouldn’t mind… regifting. Although… he didn’t have to abuse his special
talent. If he hadn’t exhibited greed, or at least
let his mother’s greed guilt him into overdoing it… …he’d probably still be alive today, rocking
away on his horse and making a comfortable profit at the track every other weekend.
Many of us have certain innate abilities… …but if we practice them to excess, it can
cause more harm than good. For example, someone might be naturally brilliant
on the trumpet… …but if he plays every night into the wee
hours, his fed-up neighbor might one day burst into his apartment and shove that trumpet
where the sun don’t shine. Was Paul’s gift really a gift? Is the fact that it brought his family wealth
all that’s important? Was his ultimate demise proof that there’s
really no such thing as a “gift?” Or should he just have handled it a little
more maturely instead of spending so much time… horsing around?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.

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