In "The Horse Dealer's Daughter," what is Mabel's situation within her family? What is her relationship with her brothers? What are her feelings for her mother? For her father?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear from the ways in which her brothers treat her and discuss her future without compassion or care that Mabel does not occupy a very good position in the family of which she is a part. At the beginning of the story, when she and her three brothers are together for what may well be the last time whilst they overlook the dissolution of their family and their belongings, the brothers discuss what she might do without really including her in the conversation, and mention possibilities that would be obviously unpalatable to her, such as she might get work as a "skivvy" or a menial worker. Even Malcolm, the youngest of the brothers, who suggests that Mabel trains as a nurse, is ignored, as the text explains:

But Mabel did not take any notice of him. They had talked at her and round her for so many years, that she hardly heard them at all.

Mabel therefore has been in the position of having been talked "at" and "round" in demeaning and upsetting ways that she has ceased to even register their words or take notice of what it is that they actually say. It is clear from the brothers that whilst they are happy to discuss what she could do as something of an abstract question, they will not do anything for her, and she must make her own way in the world, indicating that their love and affection towards her is profoundly limited.

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