The Horse Dealer's Daughter

by D. H. Lawrence

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What is the central theme of "The Horse Dealer's Daughter"?

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Certainly any work of literature could be argued to have a number of different themes, and this excellent short story by D. H. Lawrence is no exception. However, one of the themes that I found interesting was the way that society is regarded. Throughout this short story, the two central characters are variously shown to be repressed by society, albeit in different ways.

Mabel is clearly impacted greatly by society because of her poverty. Consider how the text describes this impact:

Why should she think? Why should she answer anybody? It was enough that this was the end, and there was no way out. She need not pass any more darkly along the main street of the small town, avoiding every eye. She need not demean herself any more, going into the shops and buying the chepaest food.

We can see therefore that it is partly the stigma of poverty applied to her by society that drives her to attempting to commit suicide.

Yet at the same time, Fergusson is just as impacted by society. Note how his success as a doctor makes him feel that he is too good for the town that he describes as a "hellish hole." His feeling of superiority causes him to fear for what others would think when he has declared his love for Mabel:

That he should love her? That this was love! That he should be ripped open in this way! Him, a doctor! How they would all jeer if they knew! It was agony to him to think they might know.

Throughout the story therefore, society is presented as a destructive and dominant force, that compels characters to act and think and feel unnatural actions, thoughts and emotions, even as they surrender themselves to their true natures.

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