Throughout 'The Rocking-Horse Winner,' the character of Hester, Paul's mother, does not attract admiration. In her own way, she feels that she is unlucky, yet the story starts by portraying her as a beautiful woman who 'started with all the advantages.' She marries for love and is blessed with beautiful children. However, her love 'turned to dust,' and while she has lovely children, she cannot love her children and feels like 'they had been thrust upon her' (Lawrence 1). Hester is more concerned about looks, and she strives to appear wealthier than she is. She is portrayed as a woman who strongly embraces luck, and her assertion is that she is unlucky since she has married a man who does not make as much money as she would wish. She is cold with her children and cannot get herself to love them. This paper demonstrates the character of Hester as antagonistic since she is a cold-hearted and selfish woman who neither loves her children nor her husband, and consequently, given the fact that she is also dismissive, negligent, ungrateful, it is apparent that she could not be a loving mother .First, there are various characteristics that prove Hester is not a loving mother. In other words, she is negligent. While she does not embrace the traditional abuse of her children, it is apparent that Hester abuses her children through neglect. She neglects her children, and the children acknowledge the fact that she does not love them. The narrator says:
"Nevertheless, when her children were present, she always felt the center of her heart go hard. This troubled her, and in her manner, she was all the more gentle and anxious for her children as if she loved them very much. Only she herself knew that at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody" (Lawrence 3).
This shows that no matter how hard she tries; she cannot get herself to love her children. While other people think of her as a good mother and a woman who adores her children, she, as well as her kids, know that this was not true. Her neglect can be particularly seen when her son, Paul, starts making money as an effort to better the life of her mother. From the text, Hester is not clear on what her son does to earn the money. This, however, does not stop her from spending the money without a shred of care. This neglect elevates when Paul dies after disclosing the winning horse in the next race. Hester is adamant about the death, and the only thing troubling her is the money, and her emotions fade soon afterward.
Secondly, Hester has been portrayed as a dismissive mother and does not support her son. At some point, Paul says to her mother 'I'm a lucky person' (Lawrence 3). Hester asks her why, with a sudden and dismissive laugh. Paul suddenly regrets telling this to his mother, given her reaction. He continues that God had informed him of his luck, and Hester replies: 'I hope He did, dear!' with a laugh that seems rather bitter (Lawrence 3). From her reaction, it is clear that Hester does not believe in Paul, and she has no consideration of his proclamation. A loving mother is supposed to be supportive and not dismissive; examples of personality traits that are not exhibited by Hester in the story.
Thirdly, Hester is selfish and puts her needs before those of her husband and children. Given the fact that this is created by her choices and not her circumstances, Hester's character is not sympathetic. The entire story pictures Hester as a character who only thinks of her individual well-being. She constantly feels that she is unlucky in life. She is only slightly concerned about the health of her son once he starts feeling unwell. The narrator has used the phrase, 'the heart-frozen mother' (Lawrence 12) to describe her concern for the well-being of his son. She remains adamant about Paul's death, and the only thing that moves her is the money. Hester's selfishness is also seen when she receives the money from her son. She spends the money immediately on insignificant items that only seemed to satisfy the luxurious life she was used to (Lawrence 10).
However, irrespective of the aforementioned characteristics which proves that Hester prove is not a loving or caring mother, there is an instance where she has been portrayed as a caring mother. This is seen when Paul falls sick. Immediately after revealing the winning horse, Paul falls down from his wooden horse. The narrator says, "His eyes blazed at her for one strange and senseless second, as he ceased urging his wooden horse. Then he fell with a crash to the ground, and she, all her tormented motherhood flooding upon her, rushed to gather him up" (Lawrence 13). Also, this shows that while Hester was selfish, dismissive, and discontent, she was still a caring mother who could not stand to see her son in pain. The narrator continues that throughout the period when Paul remains unconscious, his mother is very concerned and sits stonily by the side of her son. This event portrays the character of Hester as a caring mother who is concerned about the well-being of her son.
Conclusively, despite being biologically female, Hester adopts the qualities of a conformist man. Given her autonomous and personal subjectivity, it is clear that the character of Hester desires to personify personality traits such as wholeness, unconditional power, and privilege, which are customarily attributed to men. Since Hester adopts the qualities and characters that customarily belong to men, it is possible that she represses her feminine qualities of nurturing, understanding, and empathy. She has negated any characters attributed to motherhood and parenthood and has embraced lack as her character trait. Throughout the story, the character of Hester is portrayed as a selfish, negligent, dismissive, and an ungrateful mother who blames her misfortune to both her husband and her children. While at times she appears like a caring mother, it is clear that Hester is not a loving mother. However, Hester is, to some extent, a caring and concerned mother. This is primarily seen when Paul falls ill. While she is still concerned about the winning horse, she stays with his unconscious son. This portrays a character of a loving and caring mother.
Lawrence, David Herbert. The rocking-horse winner. Dramatic Publishing, 1966.
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