rocking horse winner analysis

“The Rocking Horse Winner” presents a middles class family whose parents are consumed by materialism, the consequences of which affect the children, especially the protagonist, Paul. Third person omniscient point of view allows for; Paul’s feelings and development, the mother’s selfishness and detachment from other people, and the uncle’s greed off of Paul’s gambling to be portrayed. The thoughts and motives of each character are told through that point of view. The supernatural and fairytale-like mood enhances the effect of Paul’s story by making it so much more believable and keeps the story entertaining. The thirst for wealth and greed can never be satisfied and is conveyed through symbolism and allusion throughout the story. The personification of the house as a seething and greedy character portrays the mother by repeating, “There must be more money!”(312). Any amount of money is never satisfying to her. Since the mother doesn’t voice her need for money, the house does. Around Christmas time and when Paul gives his mother a thousand pounds each month the whispers from the house become louder and more prominent to Paul. He covers his ears with his hands to soften the cries of the house and wants it to stop. The whispers are continuous, significant of the mother’s greed and how it can never be satisfied, and Paul’s cry for her love. The rocking horse symbolizes the innocence of childhood by being a toy representing the happiness and carefree essence of children’s lives.

Because the story is written like a fairytale, it’s believable that the horse gives Paul magical powers. Which easily makes it, “Paul’s secret of secrets” (322) by helping him pursue money and material gain to win his mother’s love, and reflects how he will do anything for her. The nameless horse makes him think that he is going somewhere but he’s not. It emphasizes his attitude about his mission by the description of how he frantically rides it. Racing affects Paul because he becomes completely consumed by it. His need for money keeps growing, like his mother, so he relies on gambling. The ancient meaning of wage is to stake oneself as security, one would pledge his life on the outcome of a duel or battle, which Paul becomes. Literally, Paul is putting wagers on horses and which one will win the race, but figuratively he is sacrificing himself for love and becomes the bet. Because he loves his mother so, he dies for her happiness and love. Irony is shown here because instead of him losing money he loses his life. Paul makes a deal with the devil so he can be lucky and gain money so he can receive his mother’s love and make her happy, but his mother and uncle both used him in the end. Uncle Oscar’s words to Paul’s mother were, “My God Hester, you’re eighty-thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But poor devil, poor devil, he’s best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner” (325). Those words show the pact Paul made with the devil and how the uncle used Paul for his own greed and selfishness. Paul reacted to his mother by trying to please her and make her happy. The tragedy is that when his mother ultimately loves Paul it is too late and Paul dies.

It is also ironic that he spent his whole life trying to gain her love but as his life comes to an end he ultimately gets his goal achieved. Paul’s mother is a symbol of the upper class because she has servants, a big house, and can spend money on toys at Christmas time for her children. She’s in debt but would rather get more materialistic things than pay off her debt. Because she wanted wealth and materialistic things she neglected her children which abused them mentally. She thought that appearance was more important than what’s real. Her children never knew that they were in need for money if the house hadn’t whispered. She made people believe that she loved her children very much when she really just put on an act. She didn’t teach very good values to her children. Paul’s mother married for love, and love did not bring her happiness like money did. It is ironic how the mother thinks that she is unlucky when she is beautiful, has children she wants to please, married for love, and has artistic talents. She is the poorest and most unlucky in her family in her mind, but is the richest and luckiest because of her family.

The supernatural elements combing Paul’s clairvoyance and symbols and allusion conveyed the theme of social criticism by showing how determined he was to get his mother’s love by give her money which she uses to get materialistic things to maintain her social position. A society that promotes materialism at the expense of humanity is very selfish and wrong. It shows how big of an impact people’s judgments on someone’s financial situation can have on that individual. It can consume a person and make them forget about others and reality. Paul’s situation is tragic because materialism gets one nowhere. Because his mother lost something more important than her materialist needs – love, she is left with nothing.

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