The Rocking-Horse Winner

The Rocking-Horse Winner Literary Elements


Short story

Setting and Context


Narrator and Point of View

Third-person narrator

Tone and Mood

Tense and mysterious

Protagonist and Antagonist

Paul (protagonist)

Major Conflict

Paul's mother is dissatisfied with her material possessions. This dissatisfaction manifests itself as a whispering voice in their house. Paul rides his rocking-horse in order to predict the winners of horse races to make money to satisfy her.


Paul's mother comes back from a party, worried for her son, only to discover him riding his rocking-horse violently and screaming the name of the winner of the next race. He collapses.


The narrator mentions that Paul has a "secret within secrets," and it is clear that Paul is always keeping something from others.


Paul tells his mother that she has nothing to worry about, even though his riding his rocking-horse is clearly deteriorating his mental health.


One of the racing horses is named "Lancelot" after one of the knights of King Arthur.


Just before Paul's mother goes into Paul's room, she senses threatening noises and movements coming from there. These are perhaps some of the most intense, if invisible, descriptions in the story.


Paul's mother wants more money, but when she gets more money she becomes even more dissatisfied.


"There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck... She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her."

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Paul's rocking-horse stands for a real horse. (Metonymy)


Paul's family's house seems to whisper to them in human language.