58 pages 1 hour read

D. H. Lawrence

The Rocking Horse Winner

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1926

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Ideological Context: The Apollonian/Dionysian Dichotomy

Friedrich Nietzsche published The Birth of Tragedy in 1872, based upon his interpretation of the works of the ancient Greek dramatists Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides. He articulated and philosophically developed the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, named after Apollo, god of the sun, dreams, and reason; and Dionysius, god of ecstasy, “madness,” and intoxication. This dichotomy, which Lawrence knew from his familiarity with Nietzsche, provides a contextual framework for “The Rocking Horse Winner.” The protagonist attempts to bring order to the house of “madness,” haunted by its persistent whisper, “There must be more money!” To achieve his dream, he enters a state of frenzy, “madly surging on the rocking horse” (Paragraph 221). The masturbatory Dionysian sexual climax brings him to a moment of insight, an inner knowing that manifests as the name of a winning horse.

The Apollonian exists in a home where there is order, meaning, and value. The haunted home that engulfs Paul exudes ostentation and excess and clamors for more, creating chaos, fear, and anxiety. If Paul were able to individuate from the mother, he would recognize this and deal with it in a reasoned manner.