The 19th century was a popular period of Gothic literature; mysterious, dark themes highlighted this time. The Rocking Horse Winner reflects these themes with it’s sardonic tone, its depressing subject matter and the allegory of the rocking horse-a child’s toy-mocking child’s play with the adult themes of materialism and absent parenting.
The mother embeds in Paul’s mind the idea that their family is unlucky, but really, their family is only poor because of the way the parents spend their money and live lavishly. She is beautiful, has a loving husband, a healthy family, etc, but she is too vain to see that the only problem she believes is in her life(not having enough money), is her and her husbands fault. She tells Paul that luck is what causes you to have money and one is born with it. By associating luck with money, she has set Paul up for a materialistic, blinded life.
Despite what his mother tells him, Paul makes it his goal to bring luck into their family. Although uncontrollable, his mother told him that it is better to be born lucky than rich and so Paul was determined to create his own luck. I don’t think he disliked his mother, but rather he acted in spite of what she said. What his mother believed as luck, was really morals and issues it represents. His rocking horse becomes a symbol for his “luck”. It appears as if it tells him which horse will win a race-a rocking horse can resemble the horse racing he’s betting on, the rocking can make his mind work, and it can serve as a distraction from the house whispering, “there must be more money.”
In reality, Paul is just as, if not more, unlucky than his mother. He drives himself insane trying to challenge and defeat his predestined unfortunate future. He is so focused on luck and winning that he doesn’t understand his actions are morally wrong. The rocking horse, which he thought represented his luck and answer to all of his problems, really represents all of his naive view with reality. A rocking horse is a child’s toy, and his belief about its power and what he will gain from it is childish and foolish. Also, the symbolism of rocking horses being stationary, they simply rock in place, allows Lawrence to provide an image that one can see how ludicrous one can be when faced with extreme emotions. Rather than teach their son the values of family, love, and emotional wealth, they have distorted their child’s mind into thinking the only way to be successful and therefore happy is through some arbitrary thing such as luck.
In the end, Paul’s mother might have understood luck more than Paul. She was able to accept that she was born “unlucky” and came to accept it. This represents another symbol of life-rather than change your circumstances through effort and hard work, Paul was taught to expect fortune through some random, unpredictable phenomena, thereby skirting any responsibilities directly. She complained a lot about the family’s lack of money, but didn’t really do anything about it. She set Paul up for an eery future by telling him about their financial issues. Paul was noble for trying to win money for the family and create luck for them but he ultimately kills himself, going crazy with the contradicting ideas. He is trapped in an echo chamber of his parent’s fears and obsessions which then become his fears and obsessions. Paul clearly had problems to begin with(hearing the house talk, riding the rocking horse) but the unintentional pressure from his mother that was put on him sends him over the edge.