The Horse Dealer's Daughter

by D. H. Lawrence

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What kind of person is Mabel, and how does she relate to her brothers in The Horse Dealer's Daughter?

Quick answer:

Mabel is a young woman living with her three brothers, who are all adults in their 20s. She feels she is discriminated against because of her sex, and the fact that she has no income. She is deeply unhappy but feels unable to leave the ranch and live independently. She has been repressing her emotions, so when Doctor Fergusson pulls her out of the pond after she had tried to kill herself in despair, she becomes very different.

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In D.H. Lawrence’s story, Mabel is a young woman who is living with three adult brothers after their parents have died. They are all facing a major upheaval because they all must leave the ranch; even selling the furniture would generate almost no income. Her self-centered brothers have made their plans independently and have not helped her at all. They take her for granted, and insult her with the nickname of “bulldog.” Mabel is in a severe predicament because she has nowhere to go. As the only sister, Mabel has assumed all the homemaking responsibilities, so she might be able to find work in service. She barely listens to what her rough brothers say, as they always talk among themselves without including her.

When Doctor Fergusson pays a call on them, he notices how silently and passively she sits among them. She has also gotten used to hiding her feelings from her brothers, so she does not share her intention with them; she just walks away and into the pond. Through serendipity, it is the doctor who prevents her suicide by pulling her out of the pond reveals a completely different side of her. Her negativity evaporates, and the passionate person she has been suppressing comes bursting out.

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