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Internal and External Conflict in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”

Human relationships are never simple and are usually predetermined by a variety of factors. In Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” the theme of family relationships is described through the vision of a little boy, Paul, and his mother, Hester, and the impact of such issues as money and personal needs. Despite the fact that people consider Hester “such a good mother” who “adores her children,” she and her children know that “it was not so” (Lawrence).

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This short story shows that happiness in a family may have many faces, and the lack of understanding could lead to unpredictable results. The conflict between reality and appearance or materialism and happiness is central in this story, and Lawrence uses its internal and external aspects and irony to reveal the true moral of the story.

In “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” the financial status of the family, its material side, is a root problem in the individual-society conflict. An external conflict is a struggle between people and circumstances that cannot be controlled. The mother constantly repeats that “there must be more money,” neglecting her direct responsibility to love and take care of her children (Lawrence). Human greed is dangerous, and its impact is hardly predicted.

Although the mother “racked her brains,” she “could not find anything successful” to earn more money and make herself happy (Lawrence). The woman is under the impact of society and the promotion of a luxury lifestyle. Her inability to recognize the family priority and the example she shows to her children makes her weak and even miserable. Such an external conflict is commonly observed in many families, making this theme essential for discussion.

The intention to find a balance between financial and personal needs creates a solid background for the development of an internal conflict. It usually refers to a personal struggle of an individual that remains invisible to others and creates diverse emotions. In the story, Paul is a character who is challenged by this type of conflict. He listens to his mother and learns about the importance of such concepts as “lucre,” “luck,” and “money,” which results in deciding to seek “the clue to luck” with the help of his rocking-horse (Lawrence). His intention to help the mother provokes certain internal conflicts when a boy thinks about material things and abandons his childhood dreams. In the end, Paul suffers from depression, loses his consciousness, and dies, earning money for his family.

Lawrence uses many literary elements to strengthen his message and describe the complexity of family relations. Irony is one of the most effective devices with the help of which the conflict between reality (financial problems) and expectations (family happiness) is discussed. The first example of irony is the title of the short story that intrigues the reader because it is clear that, in reality, a rocking-horse could hardly be a winner.

In his description of the family, Lawrence regularly addresses irony as if he tries to show a huge impact of opposite feelings. The children were “bonny,” but the mother “could not love them,” or the family experiences “the shortage of money,” but their style of life was “always kept up” (Lawrence). Even when the tragedy happens to this family, the author uses irony to compare the benefit of gaining money and the shortage of losing a child who has “best gone out of a life” (Lawrence). The money-happiness conflict never ends, even if it costs someone’s life.

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“The Rocking-Horse Winner” is a short story with a long-lasting impact on the reader. It is hard to predict such a tragic end in the conflict between money urgency and family happiness. Lawrence shows the connection between internal and external conflicts in characters and explains why material needs and happiness should never go together. This story teaches that parents’ obsession with money may destroy families, but children’s obsession with making parents happy through financial gains could have a high price.

Work Cited

Lawrence, David Herbert. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” The Short Story Project. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 6). Internal and External Conflict in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”.

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StudyCorgi. "Internal and External Conflict in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”." August 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Internal and External Conflict in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”." August 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Internal and External Conflict in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”'. 6 August.

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