The Rocking-Horse Winner

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Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) Character Analysis

Oscar is Paul’s wealthy, greedy uncle. He likes horse races and uses Paul’s tips to make bets himself. He also encourages Paul to give Hester some of his winnings. When Paul dies, Oscar suggests that Hester is better off having the money Paul made instead of having a strange son—or at least that Paul is better off dead than living in such a state. Ultimately it’s implied that Oscar values wealth above everything else, and was only using his nephew’s strange ability for his own benefit.

Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) Quotes in The Rocking-Horse Winner

The The Rocking-Horse Winner quotes below are all either spoken by Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) or refer to Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Rocking-Horse Winner published in 2008.
The Rocking-Horse Winner Quotes

And he would slash the horse on the neck with the little whip he had asked Uncle Oscar for. He knew the horse could take him to where there was luck, if only he forced it. So he would mount again, and start on his furious ride, hoping at last to get there.

Related Characters: Paul, Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar)
Related Symbols: The Rocking-Horse
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

Riding the rocking-horse and commanding it to "take me to where there is luck!" Paul whips the horse as if it is a living creature, and as if it will aid him in his quest for luck. He demonstrates his belief that he can force the horse to take him to luck, indicating that luck can be made or reached through sheer willpower and effort. The strange behavior seems indicative of neurosis and the anxiety generated by the materialistic pressure from the house and family, and also stems from the lesson on luck from his greedy mother.

We can note that these lines in particular lend themselves to a darker, more sexual reading, noting "mounting," "furious ride," and "get there."

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“Oh, well, sometimes I’m absolutely sure, like about Daffodil,” said the boy; “and sometimes I have an idea; and sometimes I haven’t even an idea, have I, Bassett? Then we’re careful, because we mostly go down.”

Related Characters: Paul (speaker), Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar), Bassett
Related Symbols: The Rocking-Horse
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

Uncle Oscar has recognized one of the rocking-horse's temporary names as that of a race winner, and has discovered that Paul and Bassett have been placing bets on horse races. Uncle Oscar then takes Paul to a race to see for himself what is happening, and they all place bets on Daffodil, who comes in first. After the win, Paul explains the process for choosing a horse and the betting history he and Bassett have.

In this passage, Paul explains that sometimes he's certain which horse will win. Other times he has an idea, and sometimes he doesn't know at all who will win. In these final situations, they bet more carefully, since they usually lose money. Here, we see a complicated depiction of luck. Paul isn't classically lucky, since when he has no premonition about who will win he usually loses money and picks the wrong horse. It is only through his intense focus and work that he is able to "get there" and discover for certain which horse will win. At the same time, the ability to work for this information is another form of luck. 

“I started it for mother. She said she had no luck, because father is unlucky, so I thought if I was lucky, it might stop the whispering.”

Related Characters: Paul (speaker), Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar), Hester, Paul’s father
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon after cutting Uncle Oscar into his partnership with Bassett, Paul makes ten thousand pounds on a bet. When Uncle Oscar asks him what he plans to do with all of the money, Paul responds with the quoted lines. He explains that he started accumulating money for his mother. She said that she was unlucky and her husband was unlucky, so Paul wanted to be lucky in order to "stop the whispering."

What Paul is referring to is the felt anxiety and pressure for money in his home, caused by his mother's greed and materialistic obsessions. We can note that when Uncle Oscar asks what is whispering, Paul responds with "Our house. I hate our house for whispering." When Paul tells his Uncle that the house always needs more money, Oscar simply agrees, and ultimately confirms Paul's idea that winning can stop the whispering. Thus Oscar's own greed also fuels Paul's anxious need to keep winning more and more money for his family.

Oscar then helps Paul arrange to deliver his winnings to Hester. We can also note that Paul doesn't want his mother to know (yet) that he is lucky, or that the money is coming from him. The relationship is based on the strange belief that he needs to give her money to quiet the house, but not share with her the fact that he is winning and is basing his entire reality on the notion of luck that she instilled in him. Thus Paul is seemingly acting out of love for his mother, but also is afraid of any real honesty and intimacy between himself and Hester.

“My God, Hester, you’re eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, he’s best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner.”

Related Characters: Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) (speaker), Paul, Hester
Related Symbols: The Rocking-Horse
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines, spoken by Uncle Oscar, are the last in the short story. They epitomize the problematic greed that Lawrence criticizes throughout the story. Oscar exclaims that the mother now has over eighty thousand pounds and has lost a strange ("poor devil of a") son, implying that she is better off now than with her son alive. We do not see Hester's response to her son's death. Instead, we see Uncle Oscar compare the worth of the boy's life to race winnings and immediately decide that the money is worth more. This position shows the perils of taking greed and materialism to the extreme, where a human life is lost in pursuit of wealth and his family is mostly apathetic about it.

Oscar's final, enigmatic sentence, suggests that Paul, the "poor devil" (a phrase Oscar repeats), is also better off dead than alive in a world where he "rides his rocking-horse to find a winner." In one interpretation, this final line condemns the world for its absurdity. But it also could suggest that given the pain, anxiety, and craziness Paul has experienced in his ceaseless rocking-horse ride to luck, he is better off leaving that world and life behind to find rest.

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Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) Character Timeline in The Rocking-Horse Winner

The timeline below shows where the character Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) appears in The Rocking-Horse Winner. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Rocking-Horse Winner
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
One day Paul’s wealthy uncle, Oscar, interrupts Paul while he is riding his horse. He suggests that Paul is too old... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
Uncle Oscar asks Paul which horse he should bet on for the upcoming Lincoln horse race. After... (full context)
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Anxiety Theme Icon
Uncle Oscar looks into Paul’s bright blue and close-together eyes and promises he won’t tell anyone. Paul... (full context)
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Anxiety Theme Icon
Uncle Oscar takes Paul to a horse race, and Paul’s eyes look as though they are blazing... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Paul, Bassett, and Uncle Oscar go on a walk and Paul explains that they always win when he is sure... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Anxiety Theme Icon
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
Uncle Oscar asks Paul how he becomes “sure,” and Paul explains that he just knows. Bassett says... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Anxiety Theme Icon
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
Instead of giving Hester money directly, Paul gives five thousand pounds to Uncle Oscar, who takes the money to the bank and arranges for one thousand pounds to be... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
...where she asks if she can have all five thousand pounds at once. Following Uncle Oscar’s advice, Paul agrees to give her all of the money at once. (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Anxiety Theme Icon
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
...because he doesn’t want to leave his rocking-horse—a secret about which even Bassett and Uncle Oscar don’t know. When Hester decides that Paul is too old to stay in the nursery,... (full context)
Greed and Materialism  Theme Icon
Luck and Hard Work Theme Icon
Family and Intimacy Theme Icon
After Paul’s death, Uncle Oscar tells Hester, whose name is finally revealed, that she is better off than she was... (full context)