The short story "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" by D. H. Lawrence tells of siblings in a once-prosperous family that has fallen into poverty and debt. Their mother died years previously, and now their father has died, and they have to give up their property. The daughter, Mabel, has been caring for her three brothers, but now everyone is going their separate ways.
There are five characters in the story: Mabel, her three brothers, and a doctor named Jack Ferguson. Joe, the oldest brother, is going to get married and go work for his father-in-law. Lawrence writes that the second brother, Fred Henry, is a master of horses but not of life. Malcolm, the third brother, is only mentioned in passing. The brothers respond to the tragedy of their father's death by taking care of themselves. They assume that Mabel will go live with her sister Lucy but don't bother with her situation further. The brothers remain constant and do not grow as characters in the story.
Mabel is twenty-seven years old. She has been taking care of her father and brothers since her mother died. She feels oppressed by her brothers, and as the story opens, although the situation is grim, she outwardly reacts to it by remaining impassive and unwilling to show her emotions. In fact, she is quietly devastated. She suffered during the poverty, and now she is in despair. She feels closer to her dead mother than to her brothers. She goes to the graveyard to tend to her mother's grave and then attempts to commit suicide by walking into a pond. After Ferguson rescues her, she responds by falling in love with him. She has grown as a character because her abject despair has given way to hope, and now she feels she has a reason to live.
Jack Ferguson comes by the house in his capacity as a doctor. He first reacts to Mabel on a personal level when he sees her at the churchyard. His response to her attempted suicide is to automatically rush down and rescue her, even though he is frightened and can't swim. When they get back to the house, his attitude is still at first that of a doctor to a patient, but he eventually yields to Mabel's love and begins to love her in return. He grows in character in response to two events. In saving Mabel from the pond, he grows from a fairly timid character into a hero. Later, in the house, when he responds to Mabel's love, he grows from merely being a competent doctor into being a lover that carries the responsibility of someone else's life and heart.