A disturbed child lurks between the lines in the story, ‘Rocking Horse Winner’. D. H. Lawrence offers a new dimension to fiction in his interestingly sinister portrayal of uncanny childhood abilities in the story, ‘Rocking Horse Winner’. This particular tale by Lawrence is an unsettling narrative about a young boy, Paul, who develops a strange ability to foretell the outcome of horse races while seemingly psychically communicating with his wooden rocking horse.
His abilities stem from the added facet of the story that reveals that his family is in financial turmoil and his quest to resolve this situation causes him to seek solace in his rocking horse. The tale is rather unique because despite innocence in the matter of the child and the rocking horse a deeper symbolism emerges where a disturbed childhood is cleverly portrayed.
The innocent presumptions to the tale originate directly from implications that the child, Paul, was merely playing “make-believe” when he bound his rocking horse and pretended that he was on his way to the place where luck could be found – luck, obviously, being the central theme of the story. So, seemingly, the image of Paul riding his wooden rocking horse in an attempt to resolve a domestic matter is a very accurate portrayal of how a child would innocently use his/her resources and childhood capacities to contribute to problematic resolutions.
Nevertheless, even when the intention of Paul is quite complex, the approach to the matter is very childish because only a child would assume that a domestic financial problem could be resolved by riding a wooden rocking horse to find luck. However, the riding of the rocking horse steadily emerges as a symbol to represent deeper and more disturbing realities in the story. It is clear in the story that the desire to find luck is based not on a need for it but on greed, hence, the lines, “Although they lived in style, they felt always an anxiety in the house.
There was never enough money. ” (Lawrence) which implies that the family was dealing with the matter of insatiability. Therefore, Paul’s reaction to the problem, while possibly directly related to the domestic desire, is actually representative of how children are easily influenced by the negative emotions that pervade among the adults. Paul’s reaction is therefore his response to greed and is symbolic of how everything that adults do could be right and justified from a child’s perspective. So, on this level, the values are distorted, and so results to a disturbed childhood.
Paul’s disturbance becomes even more pronounced in the lines, “He went off by himself…seeking for the clue to ‘luck’… he would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy…his eyes had a strange glare in them. ” (Lawrence) Here one sees the obsession of the young boy to find luck in response to the pervading domestic emotion. In effect, one can easily conclude that even the emotional reactions of Paul have become centered on the family desire, which, by the way, was motivated by greed.
So, Paul’s frenzy is symbolic of the mixed-emotions that a child usually succumbs to with intense stress and emotional turmoil. This instance in the story portrays a madness that is eating up Paul and this madness is on account of the desire/greed of the family. The childhood disturbance apparent here is one that originates from the adults and translates into something quite complex for the child which results to a childhood approach to the problem, which, instead of seeming quite harmless, actually is a manifestation of the psychological inadequacies of the child.
The author even validates the ‘madness’ of the child in the lines, “When he had ridden to the end of his mad little journey, he…stood in front of his rocking-horse, staring fixedly…Its red mouth was slightly open…” (Lawrence) Other than just the harmless madness of the child, the emotions escalate and become more physically pronounced in the development of violent tendencies in the child.
These tendencies are discreetly revealed in the lines, “Now…take me to where there is luck! Now take me! ” and “he 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…” (Lawrence) In conclusion, the Lawrence’ story is not to be taken at face value because of the underlying messages expressed by the symbolism which allow the image of a disturbed child to conceal itself through literature.
The story does recreate certain childhood memories for most readers but also reveals, to a certain degree, that these innocent images may actually represent something deeper and more serious, something such as a disturbed childhood.
Lawrence, D. H. “Rocking Horse Winner. ” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman Publications, 2006. 559-69. Print.