What are the qualities of the fairy tale in the story, and what do they indicate about the purpose of the story?
A fairy tale is a story for children about fairies, or about magic, the supernatural, or enchantment. More broadly, it is a story in which magical things happen to entertain but also teach a lesson. The protagonist often goes on a quest, which is either successful or not, or faces evil, and either overcomes it or not. As for a “lesson” in a fairy tale, Bruno Bettelheim emphasizes that this didactic function of fairy tales operates on a subliminal level with children—on an unconscious level, that is. In “Rocking Horse Winner,” the plot does seem to be full of enchantment in that the boy’s furious rocking back and forth seems to give him the information necessary to make his mother happy, to make the “bad voices” in the house go away. It will, in effect, rid the house of an evil spell, which is the way the poverty of the family is depicted. Indeed, his “quest” in the story is to make this happen. The rocking, which provides information from a sort of “supernatural” source, will also allow the child to win the mother’s love, which Bruno Bbettelheim might interpret as a young prince working to win the love of his lady, for indeed the child tries to please his mother in that sort of way. This story of course is not for children but for adults, but by using the formula of a fairy tale Lawrence increases its power.
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