Paradoxical Power in The Horse Dealer's Daughter Essay

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Paradoxical Power in The Horse Dealer's Daughter

In D.H Lawrence's "The Horse Dealer's Daughter," Mabel Pervin and her three brothers are left with debts to pay after the death of their father. To pay these debts, the Pervins are forced to sell every horse that they own. Then, they must separately create new lives elsewhere. Although Mabel's brothers have decided where they will be going and what they will be doing, as the story opens, Mabel's fate seems undetermined. Her apparent inability to plan her future is initially a source of tension and conflict. However, the events that unfold make clear that the life that Mabel has led for the past twenty-seven years has molded her into a determined and independent woman. Through these …show more content…

She will not allow her brothers to persuade her to live with her sister Lucy. She will not allow herself to be taken into another household in which she will not be heard. In this obstinence she stands in marked contrast with her brothers. While they are described as "subject animal[s]" in the face of their future (239), Mabel's "'bulldog'" face shows her determination (238). She fights stubbornly for her independence. Her determination and power are manifested when the doctor, Jack Ferguson, comes to visit. Notably, Jack is immediately made uncomfortable by the way she looks at him. Even in her silence, she wields a power that intimidates Jack.

This idea of Mabel being intimidating may seem counter to later events in the story. When Mabel visits her mother's grave, she tends it gently and softly. Mabel feels most at home at the graveside because there is no danger of rejection from the dead. Knowing that death will not reject her, Mabel shortly thereafter walks out into the middle of a pond. Everything about the pond suggests death. It is referred to as the "dead water," the "dead cold," and the "dead cold pond" (248). Since there is no rejection from the dead, Mabel embraces this acceptance by attempting to be consumed by death.

However, the ironic power of her attempted suicide is reflected in the sudden action she inspires in Jack. The moment that Jack sees Mabel in the water he is strangely

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