When Paul dies, Uncle Oscar implies to Hester that she is actually better off now—she has eighty thousand pounds and no longer has to deal with a son who was unfit to manage in the world. Oscar clearly does not care deeply for Paul, even though Paul is his nephew and helped him win thousands of pounds. Hester initially seems not to care for her children either and feels cold whenever they are around her. When Paul falls ill, however, she is overcome with “tormented motherhood.” While she previously felt stony-hearted toward her children because she was not attached to them, she now feels as through her heart has vanished altogether and become a stone. Instead of feeling coldness, she now feels loss and despair. Paul and Hester are not close during Paul’s lifetime, although they may have been growing closer—but then Paul dies, and Lawrence doesn’t even show us Hester’s reaction. Instead we just see Oscar’s callous weighing of Paul’s death in terms of its monetary value.
While Hester’s emotions could certainly be interpreted as the feelings of love that a mother should naturally have for her son, some critics have interpreted “The Rocking Horse Winner” in a more sexual, psychoanalytical way. These writers see Paul’s riding motion and the frenzied state he falls into while riding as metaphors for intercourse or masturbation. Since Paul rides the rocking-horse to please his mother in particular, some think that this story has Freudian undertones. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed in the existence of an Oedipal complex, or that young boys are first sexually attracted to their own mothers. According to Freud, healthy children grow out of this desire, but those with neuroses do not. Thus, while “The Rocking Horse Winner” can be read as a story about the pitfalls of luck and greed, it can also be interpreted as a portrait of sexual neurosis, and how Paul’s frustrated Oedipal desires ultimately lead to his death.
Family and Intimacy ThemeTracker
Family and Intimacy Quotes in The Rocking-Horse Winner
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.”
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.”
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!”
“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.”