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The basic premise of Modernism can be seen in the background of the family that Lawrence outlines in his story. Initially, consider Woolf's understanding of a critical element of the "shift" intrinsic to Modernism: "All human relations shifted, and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature." Modernism is rooted in this "shift" where what was understood is not necessarily the same as what is understood.
This condition of a consciousness in "shift" is present in the narrative detail about the horsedealer's family's background. One such example is the condition of the family, as a whole:
The house was large, but it was servantless now, and desolate. At the back was a small bricked house-yard, and beyond that a big square, gravelled fine and red, and having stables on two sides. Sloping, dank, winter-dark fields stretched away on the open sides. But the stables were empty. Joseph Pervin, the father of the family, had been a man of no education, who had become a fairly large horse dealer. The stables had been full of horses, there was a great turmoil and come-and-go of horses and of dealers and grooms. Then the kitchen was full of servants. But of late things had declined. The old man had married a second time, to retrieve his fortunes. Now he was dead and everything was gone to the dogs, there was nothing but debt and threatening.
The horsedealer's family is a Modernist entity in the shift they have experienced. From a position of wealth and power, the family has experienced the shift into financial challenge. This is not a revivifying experience that is normally depicted as one that breeds character. This is indicated in Lawrence's belief that "Mabel had suffered badly during the period of poverty." Rather, it is one in which a shift from "garden to desert" has emerged. It is a Modernist notion of being in which there is a firm change or shift from what was into what is.
Modernism can also be seen in the ending of the story. There is a shift evident in the traditional conception of love. The standard telling of this construct is that the doctor saves Mabel, and there is an instant love present between both. This would be a unifying ending, one that affirms a sense of structure in the world. In Modernism, though, the condition of the individual is that there is alienation and a sense of fragmentation even in the most basic elements of being. This would apply to the realm of love, and this is seen in the end of the story, where the vision of "love" offered is not unifying. The doctor experiences many different affectual responses to love. He is described as being resistant to love, capitulating to it, seeming to be against it, until finally, he says that he wishes for them to be married tomorrow. For her part, there is little clear in Mabel's reaction to "love." Mabel is described in the story's final line as hearing the doctor's declarations of love to her with "a terrible intonation which frightened her almost more than her horror lest he should notwant her." In both experiences, there is a Modernist construction of love evident in the fragmented experience, one that is far from cohesive and very isolating.
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