What kind of child is Paul? What are his motivations?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paul longs for his mother's love. We learn early in the story that his mother "felt the centre of her heart go hard" around her children. She tries to hide this, but her two daughters and Paul sense she doesn't really love them. 

Paul's mother, a proud woman, yearns for more money and likes to keep up appearances. She feels disappointed that her husband has not been more successful. Paul, a sensitive child, feels an "anxiety in the house" that haunts it. The very walls seem to cry out, "There must be more money." Everyone feels the "grinding sense of the shortage of money."

Paul internalizes his mother's desire for money. Like her, he is proud. He wants to please her, but his pride is injured when she doesn't believe that God told him that he was lucky: 

The boy saw she did not believe him; or rather, that she paid no attention to his assertion. This angered him somewhere, and made him want to compel her attention. 

Later, he again reveals his pride and desire to be taken seriously:

 And then the house whispers, like people laughing at you behind your back. It's awful, that is! I thought if I was lucky—

Paul is also secretive: "He went about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck." When he wins 5,000 pounds betting, he doesn't want his mother to know he is the source of the money. He lies to her about why he has his rocking-horse moved to his bedroom.

He is an angry child too, as might be expected from someone who senses his mother really doesn't love him. We see this in his eyes. For instance, "his eyes had a strange glare in them." His eyes "glare" and "blaze." His voice shows his anger as well: he speaks "fiercely" and at one point his voice "flared." He rides his rocking-horse "furiously." We see his anger in his determination to "force" the horse to do his bidding:

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.

There is also something odd about this little boy. His eyes "had an uncanny cold fire in them." The word uncanny is used twice to describe him.

We also learn in the story that Paul is "frightened."

Despite being a proud, angry, driven little boy, we feel sorry for Paul at the end, for he is most of all a frightened child who dies trying to earn his mother's love and approval.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the story “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawerence, Paul is a much neglected child.  He is quiet and more to himself.  Because of this he retreats to the rocking horse from his nursery days.  He rocks and rocks faster and faster until eventually he is able to visualize himself winning races.

Paul needs nurturing and his mother's love.  He continues to try to please his mother by riding harder and harder on the rocking horse.  He is also a child who is a true winner because he does not quit.  Despite his mother's ability to want and demand more, he keeps on going until it kills him.


Read the study guide:
The Rocking-Horse Winner

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