The rocking-horse has multiple symbolic meanings in Lawrence’s story. The fact that at the beginning of the story, Paul has a rocking-horse but not a tutor is proof of Hester’s skewed values. She is very materialistic, and prizes her ability to buy her children beautiful Christmas presents more than she values their education. Rocking-horses are also toys that children typically age out of, but Paul continues to use his despite the many protests of his family members. His attachment to the toy suggests that he is not growing up in a normal way. Although the rocking-horse itself is a toy, its form is based on a real horse—an animal that can be wild and difficult to tame (or predict how it will act, as Paul seeks to do in his betting). In some ways, Paul might be compared to the rocking-horse: he seems innocent, but there is a wild force within him that cannot be controlled. He rides his rocking-horse so fiercely that the seemingly-harmless toy comes to seem malevolent and powerful, and perhaps even causes Paul’s death.
The Rocking-Horse Quotes in The Rocking-Horse Winner
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.
“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.”
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!”
“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.”