Paul’s home is so full of anxiety that even the house itself seems to worry over the family’s financial situation. Hester and Paul, the two main characters, take different approaches to relieving their anxiety. Hester complains and spends more, while Paul works with Bassett and rides his rocking-horse frantically—but neither character is successful. In fact, both of them become more anxious as the story progresses. Paul is made so anxious by his whispering house that he starts obsessively riding his rocking horse for hours in search of “luck.” He does end up making lots of money this way, but Hester only becomes more anxious when she receives Paul’s monetary gift. Further, as Paul becomes more obsessed with riding his horse, Hester grows anxious about him as well. In the beginning of the story, Hester seems to think little about her children, but by the end she is concerned with Paul’s wellbeing—so much so that Paul himself tries to reassure her and tell her not to worry. Yet in the end, her anxiety does not compel her to pay enough attention to Paul to prevent his death—she is too focused on her own feelings, even if those feelings still relate to Paul. Anxiety thus is portrayed in the story as something that becomes separate from its initial cause, so that those who suffer from it often focus on the anxiety itself rather than on its causes.
Although this story is full of anxiety, that anxiety is rarely acknowledged out loud. Indeed, Paul and his siblings do not even discuss their mutual feeling that their house is whispering about the need for more money. Anxiety in the story is internal and unspoken, and it separates people. It is conveyed not through conversation or connection but silently, though the eyes. Paul is repeatedly described as having mad or frenzied eyes, particularly in contrast to the rocking-horse’s cool and calm ones, and the children only use glances to “share” that they all hear the whispering house. Overall, this sense of anxiety and dread permeates the entire story, affecting the characters and their actions, and also the general mood of the work itself.
Anxiety Quotes in The Rocking-Horse Winner
And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money!
Yet nobody ever said it aloud. The whisper was everywhere, and therefore no one spoke it. Just as no one ever says: “We are breathing!” in spite of the fact that breath is coming and going all the time.”
Absorbed, taking no heed of other people, he went about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck. He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it. When the two girls were playing dolls, in the nursery, he would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily.
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.
“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.”
And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: “There must be more money! Oh-h-h! There must be more money! Oh, now, now-w! now-w-w—there must be more money!—more than ever! More than ever!”
He became wild-eyed and strange, as if something were going to explode in him.
He hardly heard what was spoken to him, he was very frail, and his eyes were really uncanny. His mother had sudden strange seizures of uneasiness about him. Sometimes, for half an hour, she would feel a sudden anxiety about him that was almost anguish. She wanted to rush to him at once, and know he was safe.
There was a strange, heavy, and yet not loud noise. Her heart stood still. It was a soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful. Something huge, in violent, hushed motion. What was it? What in God’s Name was it? She ought to know. She felt that she knew the noise. She knew what it was.
His eyes blazed at her for one strange and senseless second, as he ceased urging his wooden horse. Then he fell with a crash to the ground, and she, all her tormented motherhood flooding upon her, rushed to gather him up.
“I never told you, mother, that if I can ride my horse, and get there, then I’m absolutely sure—oh, absolutely! Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky!”