The Horse Dealer's Daughter

by D. H. Lawrence

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What is the point of view in "The Horse Dealer's Daughter"?

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D.H. Lawrence's short story "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" is told from third-person omniscient point of view. As noted in the linked eNotes guide to literary terms:

The most commonly used form of third-person is third-person omniscient. In this style of narration, the story is told by a third-person narrator who is all-knowing. They are aware of any and all events in the story as well as the inner thoughts and feelings of multiple characters.

The narrator of "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" is not one of the characters but switches easily between the thoughts and feelings of the three Pervin brothers and their sister Mabel.

These siblings each seem to inhabit their own separate worlds, only loosely bound together by their familial relationship. Joe, the eldest, is handsome and stupid. The narrator likens him directly to a horse: not particularly bright, but made for hard work, needing only a "harness"—some kind of structure around his life through which others can guide and direct him. Fred Henry, the second brother, is "erect, clean-limbed, alert." In contrast to his older brother,

If [Fred Henry] was an animal, like Joe, he was an animal which controls, not one which is controlled.

Malcolm is the youngest sibling and has a "fresh, jaunty" aspect. He follows his brother Joe in character, although he is younger and less stolid.

The mystery of the family is the titular horse dealer's daughter, Mabel, who seldom speaks to or even listens to her brothers and is something of a "black box" to them all. The omniscient narrator is able to look into this "black box" and show the reader Mabel's hidden thoughts and feelings. To her brothers, Mabel is a stubborn, silent cipher, but the narrator reveals she is sad, lonely, and suffering.

Only the young doctor, Fergusson, is able to see what the narrator sees, as a chance meeting in the churchyard forges an unexpected connection between him and Mabel. He saves her life when she tries to drown herself in a pond, and the connection between them is suddenly much more profound. The omniscient narrator sees into the thoughts of both young people and can describe the strong and confusing emotions they both experience. It is this point of view that makes the story effective and evocative.

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This story is written in the third-person omniscient point of view. What that means is that the narrator is outside the story and that the reader is able to know the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.

The Guide to Literary Terms defines point of view:

Personal point of view concerns the relation through which a writer narrates or discusses a subject, whether first, second, or third person. If personal point of view is used and the writer assumes the point of view of a character, the author is writing in the first person. If the author takes the point of view of an observing character, the author is writing in the second person. If an impersonal point of view is taken, the author detaches himself completely and is an omniscient author, or third person.

See also the SAT Prep on point of view, linked below.

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