In "The Rocking Horse Winner", what does the passage below tell us about Paul's mother? "Two nights before the Derby, she was at a big party in town .....for she believed in...

In "The Rocking Horse Winner", what does the passage below tell us about Paul's mother?

"Two nights before the Derby, she was at a big party in town .....for she believed in common-sense" 

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mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

At the beginning it states that "when her children were present, she always felt the centre of her heart go hard." This is why the passage you provided is so interesting.  It describes that "one of her rushes of anxiety about her boy, her first-born, gripped her heart till she could hardly speak."  How could such a cold woman feel such anxiety for someone that supposedly made "the centre of her heart go hard"?  The statements directly contradict each other. 

Paul's mother, upon feeling this intense anxiety, "fought with the feeling, might and main, for she believed in common-sense".  For some reason, feeling love and concern for her son was not sensical to her, perhaps because she didn't feel it very often.  She puts ridiculous excuses in front of her concern, like "She did not want her son's privacy intruded upon" when she calls to check on him.  The author seems to be condemning of her idea of common sense.  If she is worried, common sense would dictate that she act on it, not maintain her public face, which is what she does.  She is a woman full of good intentions but no follow-through, no real sense for what is important.  From the beginning we realize she is obsessed with money, but not enough to change her lifestyle.  In this passage, we see her worried about her son, but not enough to do something that really matters about it. 

ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This passage underscores the mother's misunderstanding towards her son. She has noticed Paul's change in behavior and his altered state. Her maternal instinct is telling her she needs to check on her son, and she may be beginning to feel some responsibility for his odd behavior. But, according to the narrator, she "did not want her son's privacy intruded upon." Actually, she probably doesn't want the governess to think she is being overly concerned. And she may not want to know the truth about Paul's behavior. In any case, her "common sense" makes no sense at all because when she arrives home, the first thing she does is go to her own room. When she finally arrives at Paul's room, she listens at the door before going in. That is why, after Paul dies, she has to be chastised by her own brother who tells her, "My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad."

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