58 pages 1 hour read

D. H. Lawrence

The Rocking Horse Winner

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1926

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Symbols & Motifs

The Rocking Horse

The shining rocking horse, the expensive Christmas toy, becomes Paul’s source for the “luck” he must prove to his mother to get her attention. It reflects the tension of the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy. Jonathan Swift, after all, chose the horse as a symbol of reason in Gulliver’s Travels—the Houyhnhnm, the idyllic being who acts justly, converses and thinks clearly, the savior of Gulliver from the despicable, sensual Yahoos.

This rocking horse, not at all a Houyhnhnm, champs its head, charges wildly, and takes the whip to be beaten to a frenzy. It is the vehicle to ride for the Dionysian ecstasy. Paul uses the horse, known for its sexual prowess, to imitate the sex act through masturbation. The mother hears this when she stands outside his bedroom door, the “soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful. Something huge in violent, hushed motion” (Paragraph 217). She knows what it is, but she can’t “place” it: “And on and on it went, like a madness” (Paragraph 218), the sound of sex she long ago stopped sharing and hearing.

The reader is reminded this is a quest. Paul, to save his fair maiden, dies in bringing her the prize of “eighty-odd thousand” pounds.