Originally published in Harper’s Bazaar in July 1926, the first of what would become a seemingly endless series of republications in anthologies and textbooks commenced the very next year when D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner” appeared in a collection titled Ghost Stories. While Lawrence’s reputation is irretrievably linked to scandals over the definition of obscenity and pornography as they relate to novels like Lady Chatterley’ Lover, it is a fairly safe bet to assume that more people have actually read this story than anything else Lawrence ever published.
Critics often suggest that Lawrence excelled in the art of short fiction to a greater degree than with his longer works. One reason for this nearly universal perspective might actually be that most of his short stories did not bring the baggage of open sexuality into the public discourse as did his novels. For instance, it is far easier to get right to the fact that “The Rocking Horse Winner” is a classic example of Modernist fiction which was reaching toward the height of its popularity and influence in the mid-1920s when Lawrence wrote it. Likewise, intuiting the story’s themes of how greed and a materialistic outlook upon life can heighten a sense of anxiety within a home and be implicated as a driving force behind a lack of intimacy within strained familial relationships is just simply less challenging when there aren’t also distractions targeted toward analysis being levied by outside parties with an agenda to push.
“The Rocking Horse Winner” managed to cross the finish line as one of those stories that every generation gets exposed to. The story may pop up as an assignment for high school, college, or even ESOL classes since the subject matter of childhood fantasies and gambling are hardly limited to the writer’s own culture. Despite what seems to be a limitation upon cinematic possibilities engendered by the story narrative, “The Rocking Horse Winner” also links generations as a result of being adapted into a feature-length film in 1949.