What does the rocking-horse symbolize in "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rocking horse can be said to symbolize childhood, for one thing. Nobody but a small child could ride a rocking horse without breaking it. It can also be said to symbolize an interest in horses and horse-racing. It certainly symbolizes or represents Paul's anxiety. Rocking back and forth is a common symptom of anxiety in children. The rocking can symbolize Paul's need for his mother's love. It can symbolize his feeling of helplessness. After all, he is only a little boy. How can he do anything practical to please his mother? He knows she wants money. How can a little boy earn any significant amount of money? He is not riding the rocking horse to learn the name of a winning horse but really to try to find out why his mother doesn't love him and what he might do to win her affection. That is the destination he is trying to get to. The rocking horse can be said to symbolize a futile attempt to solve an unsolvable problem. The rocking never gets the horse anywhere; it remains in the same place, like the boy riding it. The rocking horse might really be magical!!! Maybe Paul really did pick winners by riding it. A rocking horse is no more improbable as a magical object than a magic lamp or a monkey's paw. As mature people, we know that you can't win money consistently by riding a rocking horse; but as readers, we really believe that the rocking horse is a magical object and that Paul is going to keep winning money as long as he keeps rocking. We believe--because we want to believe.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 The rocking-horse symbolizes several closely linked themes in this story. First, it symbolizes how far the economic fears of the family reach. A children's play area should be free of such fears, but they reach even into the place where the horse is. Second, it shows how ambition does not ever stop. Like the rocking-horse, every forward rock/step/motion is matched by a backward one. Think of how the house is haunted: " There must be more money! There must be more money!" Third, it shows the undercurrent of sexual tension in the desire.

peedy | Student

the rocking horse was transporation for paul to get to the money for his family.

cmarr0667 | Student

The horse depicts several possibilities in the story. First, it is the valiant transporter of this child and the means of reaching a level of happiness beyond the shallow life of living with his mother. It can also symbolize the journey for a child and his escape from hell as he travels to a devine state of mind (heaven). Third and the worst of all, it may symbolize masturbation and his eyes being ever so crazy may be he reaching climax which causes his sisters to be bothered and uncomfortable. It is your choosing because you are the reader. free your mind and journey with Paul to wherever you choose. 

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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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