What effect does the repeated mention of Paul's eyes have upon the reader in "The Rocking-Horse Winner"? Why do you think the writer chose this particular feature?

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ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The description of Paul's eyes progress from innocence to madness.  The author uses adjectives like unsure, glaring, fiery, wild-eyed, and blue stones. These adjectives go from a pure innocence of unsure eyes, to his obsessed wild-eyed, and finally before death the eyes like blue stones. The affect on the reader is one of suspense and emotional attachment to Paul.  Lawrence wrote this way to draw the reader into Paul's emotions.  Most people show all of their true feelings in their eyes.  This was a perfect characteristic for us to see Paul's travel toward death. By focusing on Paul's eyes the author creates a bond between the reader and the boy.  We can't help but become invested in this child's emotional well-being.

teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Lawrence focuses repeatedly on Paul's eyes, and he does this because they stand as a metaphor for both Paul's ability to clairvoyantly "see" future winners of horse races and for the way this vision will consume or burn him out.

Paul desperately wants his mother's love, but he cannot perceive from his childish perspective that she is incapable of truly loving her children. He knows she loves money and finds out from her that she feels she doesn't have enough. By furiously riding his rocking horse he learns he can predict the winner of upcoming horse races and earn the prize money, which he gives to his mother in hopes of buying her love. Much of the imagery around his eyes is associated with his rocking horse riding and the actual horse races where he wins money. Paul's eyes glare, flare, burn and are on fire. All of these words lend a demonic quality to his obsession with winning. His eyes are also close-set, suggesting a narrowness to his vision. He doesn't realize this is a losing game, for his mother can never get enough to satisfy her.

Paul's glaring, burning eyes focus on only one goal, and he, a child, is completely unable to see how his mania for riding his rocking horse will burn him out until he dies.

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