In the story "The Rocking Horse Winner," why does Paul become obsessed with horseracing?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Rocking Horse Winner, Paul becomes obsessed with horse racing to please his mother, who craves money. Since he wants to earn her love, as well as reduce the atmosphere of anxiety he feels all the time in the house, Paul tries to win as many horse racing bets as he can. He works with his Uncle Oscar and Bassett, the gardener, to predict the winners of enough races that they can give his mother 5,000 pounds.

Sadly, even after his mother gets this money, it's not enough. It only whets her appetite for more and more. The atmosphere in the house becomes more pressured, so that even the walls seem to be saying, over and over, "there must be more money!" By this point, Paul has internalized his mother's obsession. He wants at all costs to please her. He learns if he ride his rocking horse often enough and fast enough, he can figure out which horse will win the next race. He rides and rides the rocking horse to find out the winner of the derby, so his mother can become rich. But doing so kills him.

The story is parable about the limitless quality of greed and the effect it can have on children who lack any adult mechanism for putting boundaries between themselves and a parent's need. 

Read the study guide:
The Rocking-Horse Winner

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