Scarlet Letter

Themes

Controversy between Money and Love
as shown in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”
The Rocking-Horse Winner is couched in the symbols of the ancient myths. The mother is poor, unsatisfied fairy princess who yearns for happiness; Paul is the gallant knight on horse-back who rides to her rescue (Junkins 261). The mythical aspect of the story is evident in the style and symbols. In the opening lines, the first seven words have a fable-like quality reminiscent of any number of fairy princess tales, yet the word advantages locates us in the atmosphere of the modern world, so does the word luck (Junkins 261). The reach of the symbolism is overwhelming, in some sense the story is “about” its literal, narrative level: the life of the family that chooses money instead of some more stable value, takes money as it’s nexus of affection. The first fault lay with the mother (Snodgrass 117).

“There was a beautiful woman who started with all the advantages, yet she had
no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children,
yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them”
(Lawrence 1).
The story continues to tell us of Hester, who is unable to love her children and is obsessed with money. “Only she herself knew that at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody.”(Lawrence 1)
There were many problems in the household, one of which was a lack of love from the mother. As Lawrence wrote “Only she herself and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other’s eyes” (Lawrence 1). During a conversation, Paul’s mother mentions that luck is, “what causes you to have money. If you’re lucky you have money. That’s why it’s better to be born lucky than rich. If you’re rich you may loose your money. But if you’re lucky you will always get more
Forbes 2
money.”(Lawrence 1). The situation is then made worse by assuming that her misfortunes were caused by her marriage to an unlucky husband. “The father is clearly a failure as a provider and family-head, so much that we are scarcely conscious of his existence. And his failure is aggravated by the high social position the family tries to maintain (Koban 280). Lawrence tells us “the mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up.”(1) Due to their financial position the house began to whisper “There must be more money! There must be more money!” (1)
When Paul learned from his mother that luck equals money, which in turn brings happiness, he believes if he can bring in money, it would make his mother happy, thus bringing love. From there he diverts all his attention to obtaining luck for his mother. The father withdrawal, of course, leaves a gap which encourages Paul in a natural Oedipal urge to replace his father (Snodgrass 118). Paul reacts by stating he is lucking and sets out on a mission to find luck and silence the house from whispering. “He went off by himself, vaguely, in a childish way, seeking for a clue to luck’. He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it. Here we discover Paul’s secret of secrets: a wooden horse that enables him to predict winners of each derby as he places bets on them. “Now!” he would silently command the snorting steed. “Now take me to where there is luck! Now take me!” We would slash the horse on the neck with the little whip. He knew the horse could take him to where there was luck, if only he forced it. So he would mount
Forbes 3
again and start on his furious ride, hoping at last to get there (Isaacs 263). Paul, accepting the unspoken invitation to take his fathers place in fulfilling his mother’s dreams seemed to be fulfilled when, with the help of Bassett, the gardener, he begins to
win money betting on horses (Kaplan 1971) Determined to make his mother happy he gives her five thousand pounds, thinking it would make her happy and the house stop whispering. “Of course, said the boy, “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 whispering.” Lawrence 9). The selfishness of the mother is revealed once again as she is not satisfied with the agreement of receiving money on her birthday for the next five years. She must have it now! “But in the afternoon Uncle Oscar appeared. He said Paul’s mother had had a long interview with the lawyer asking if the whole five thousand could not be advanced at once, as she was in debt (Lawrence 11)
Amon, Frank. “The Rocking Horse Winner.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas
Votteler et. al. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 200-02.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now


Snodgrass, W.D. “The Rocking Horse Winner.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas
Votteler et. al. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 206-07.


Koban, Charles. “The Rocking Horse Winner.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas
Votteler et. al. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 206-07.