What is the symbolic importance of the voices in the house and the rocking horse in the story "The Rocking Horse Winner"?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the major themes in this story is that of greed and materialism, and how these two traits only lead to emptiness and despair.  The quest for money as a way to be happy is an empty, vain pursuit that will never work.  The voices are symbolic of this theme.  Note how they start whispering early on in the story, as we learn of the family's financial difficulties, and of the mother's constant desire to live a wealthy lifestyle.  Her key conversation with her son reveals her disgruntlement that her husband is not longer "lucky," which she defines as "what causes you to have money."  Paul, realizing his mother does not love him, decides he will be lucky, as a sad attempt to win her affection.

The voices whisper constantly, even when there IS money, even when Paul wins quite a bit and gives it to his mother.  One would think that the voices, having money, would stop, but even after he wins large amounts, Lawrence writes,

"And yet the voices in the house...simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: 'There must be more money ! Oh-h-h; there must be more money.  Oh, now, now-w ! Now-w-w --- there must be more money ! --- more than ever ! More than ever !'"

This symbolizes greed, which, no matter how much money you have, it is never enough.  And, how money will never be a replacement for love, happiness, and fulfillment, but instead will drain your entire life away and leave you empty at the end.  The voices throughout the story, how they never stop whispering and screaming, represent that constant demand that money and materialism puts on a person, and how it will never be satisfied.  I hope those thoughts helped; good luck!

Read the study guide:
The Rocking-Horse Winner

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