In one of his last short stories, “The Rocking-Horse Winner”, D. H. Lawrence tells a story about the life of a young boy, Paul, who has the ability to name the winner of any horse race by simply riding on his toy rocking horse. The short story is vaguely familiar to that of a Fairy Tale. Lawrence's simple style, coupled with the supernatural suggests as much. However, this fable is not an average fairy tale. The text utilizes two reoccurring motifs: the eyes and hardness of the heart, to indicate a symbolic connection between Paul and his mother. The elements of irony and the ill-fated characters produces a deeply sardonic fairy tale on .
Her lifestyle is what can be described as genteel poverty. She is a woman who is said to have “started with all the advantages” (750), but she threw away all of her prospects when she married her husband. However, she is unable to let that lifestyle go and their family is left with a constant shortage of money. Only after Paul wins money for her is she able to have “the luxury [she] had been used to” (Lawrence, 757). His mother is said to have married for love, but in the time since then it has “turned to dust”. She also has three children, but she does not love them either. She knows that her heart has a “hard little place that could not feel love...” (Lawrence, 750). In order to cover up this flaw she pretends as though she loves her children so the other parents within her social circle believe that she is a great mother. This artificial love manifests itself in the form of expensive gifts, servants, and a nurse (or nanny). However, in the privacy of their own home she is cold and distant from her children, and they know of her stone heart. Despite being briefly mentioned, the knowledge of the hardness in her heart creates a bias in the reader who is made to believe that she cannot love, and that she defines her existence through a materialistic lifestyle, which is key to the overarching irony of the work.
The eyes act as the window to the soul, particularly when it concerns the character of Paul. With Paul, the eyes are representation of his driving passion. The narrator always refers to his “blue eyes” as being either “big”, “hot” or “flaring”, “uncanny”, or finally as “stones”. These can be located throughout the text correlating with key turning points in the tale.
At first, before he has his conversation about luck with his mother, Paul's eyes aren't mentioned, but that does not change the fact that they are still blue. This suggests a purity of his being, or soul, if you will; untainted by the knowledge of true human nature. It is only after his conversation with his mother, after he tells her that he is a lucky person, that there is a change in his eyes. In his first ride of the rocking-horse his eyes have a “strange glare”, his sisters recognize the change and avoid him. When his uncle and mother arrive and try to talk with him, he gives them a “blue glare”, and when he finishes his blue eyes...