The Rocking-Horse Winner Questions and Answers
by D. H. Lawrence

The Rocking-Horse Winner book cover
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How are the names in The Rocking Horse Winner used as symbols?

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Sometimes an author might use the device of allusion by naming a character that recalls another character in literature. Such is the case with Hester, Paul’s mother, who calls to mind the Hester in Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.  Hester is a woman who breaks the sexual rules of her puritan society and suffers the consequence. She desperately loves her child, however, which is ironic in terms of the lack of love Paul’s mother shows for him.  As for Paul, his name resonates with the Paul of the New Testament, who experiences a conversion to Jesus and changes his life accordingly.  According to the New Testament, Jesus appeared to Paul—revealed himself to him.  Paul in Lawrence’s story also has revelations, but again in an ironic way, for the revelations this Paul receives are about race horses and money. As for other symbols, the dominant symbol is the rocking horse itself, which many critics understand in terms of the child's desperate attempt to please his mother.  They see the horse as representing a sexual desire for the mother, which seems horrifying, but pertains to Freud's theories concerning a young boy's desire for his mother that he learns to sublimate because of the presence of a strong father. Paul lacks this father, and so acts out his desire in the child-like but very dangerous way.

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