One of the main reasons why D. H. Lawrence’s story The Horse Dealer’s Daughter is even today being commonly referred to, as such that represents a high literary value, is that despite having been written in 1914, it contains a number of themes and motifs that fully correlate with the realities of a contemporary living.
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This, of course, implies that, after having been exposed to this particular Lawrence’s story, readers should be more likely to choose in favor of a discursively adequate stance in life. In this paper, I will explore the validity of the earlier suggestion at length, while focusing on the specific themes of ‘futility’ and ‘female sexuality’, prominently featured throughout the story’s entirety.
Probably the most distinctive feature of The Horse Dealer’s Daughter is the fact that the story’s plot-line can be followed with ease. After having sustained a commercial bankruptcy, as horse-ranchers, the Pervin family members (Joe, Fred and Malcolm and their sister Mabel) ended up having no other option in life but to sell their farm and to split apart, while seeking a better luck elsewhere.
This caused Mabel to succumb to depression and to decide to end her life by the mean of getting herself drowned in the pond. However, the village’s physician Jack Fergusson noted Mabel’s suicidal attempt. He rushed to the pond and succeeded in bringing Mabel back to life.
This resulted in prompting the latter to assume that Fergusson was in love with her. While fearing that, had he told Mabel that this was far from having been the case, she would try to drown herself again, Fergusson agreed to marry Mabel.
Nevertheless, despite the apparent simplicity of its plot, Lawrence’s story can indeed be referred to as being utterly powerful, in the discursive sense of this word.
This is because, as it was implied in the Introduction, in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter the author did succeed in exposing the conceptual fallaciousness of the idea that there is a ‘big-daddy-God’ up in the sky, which helps people to face hardships, and that one’s virtuousness is the key for him or her to be able to attain happiness.
The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to the character of Mabel, which Lawrence describes as a somewhat non-talkative, but utterly responsible woman, who was willing to take care of her brothers at the expense of denying itself the prospect to be able to advance in life: “For months, Mabel had been servantless in the big house, keeping the home together in penury.
She had kept house for ten years… So long as there was money, the girl felt herself established, and brutally proud, reserved” (136). This, however, did not pay off – as time went on, Mabel was growing increasingly aware of the sheer absurdity of the situation when, despite having proceeded with an essentially self-sacrificial existential mode for a number of years, she was not going to get ‘rewarded’ even the slightest.
However, it was not only this character’s willingness to address her ‘womanly chores’ without uttering a word of complaint, which gave her a huge credit, as an individual, but also her ability to remain thoroughly rational, while facing the impossible odds.
Apparently, Mabel was intellectually honest enough to recognize the fact that, in order for people to ‘qualify’ for life, in the first place, their existential posture may never cease being thoroughly dignified. This explains Mabel’s decision to commit suicide – she was just a little too perceptually noble to be trying to hang on to life, despite being aware of its futility: “Mindless and persistent, she endured from day to day.
Why should she think? Why should she answer anybody? It was enough that this was the end, and there was no way out” (136). Therefore, despite the sheer unnaturalness of Mabel’s decision to end her life, we nevertheless cannot help respecting it. The reason for this is apparent – this decision was not even slightly irrational.
Quite on the contrary, it reflected the character’s ability to exercise a complete rationale-based sovereignty over her body – something that only intellectually advanced and courageous individuals can do. Apparently, Mabel was well aware of the fact that there can be no any ‘deep meaning’ to futility, and that the best way to deal with futility is to end it for good – regardless of what may be the concerned act’s moral implications.
Thus, it will be fully appropriate to suggest that the Lawrence’s story is indeed fully consistent with the ‘godless’ realities of post-modernity – specifically, with the fact that, as of today, more and more people grow increasingly aware that the concept of euthanasia should not necessarily be associated with the notion of ‘wickedness’.
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After all, once there is no God, which may have a ‘higher purpose’ to cause people to endure suffering, there can be very little sense in making one’s suffering prolonged – pure and simple.
Hence, the key to the Lawrence story’s continual popularity with readers – despite this story’s emotionally disturbing sounding, there can be a few doubts as to the story’s intellectual progressiveness, as it does encourage religious readers to reconsider the soundness of their infantile outlooks on the meaning of life.
There is another reason for us to think of The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, as being de facto modern – the fact that it contains a number of scientifically legitimate insights into the female psyche’s actual working. The legitimacy of this suggestion can be shown in relation to the manner, in which Lawrence expounds on what prompted Mabel to assume that Fergusson was in love with her.
There is a memorable scene in the story when Mabel utters the word ‘love’ for the first time: “’Who undressed me?’ she (Mabel) asked, her eyes resting full and inevitable on his face. ‘I did,’ he (Fergusson) replied, ‘to bring you round.’ For some moments she sat and gazed at him awfully, her lips parted.
‘Do you love me then?’ she asked” (141). This, course, suggests that Mabel associated the notion of love with the notion of nakedness. Nevertheless, contrary to what some critics suggest, this particular plot-development did not mean to accentuate the fact that Mabel was somewhat ‘odd’, in the psychological sense of this word.
Quite on the contrary – by exposing Mabel, as an individual incapable of distinguishing the earlier mentioned notions from one another, Lawrence wanted to stress out that it is in women’s very nature to think of love and sex, as essentially inseparable discursive categories.
This is because, unlike what it happened to be the case with men, whose sexual organs are ‘external’, women’s genitals are ‘internal’. Therefore, whereas; men can well mentally detach their psyche from their penises, women are quite incapable of doing the same.
We can say that woman’s whole body functions as one big sexual organ, which explains why women get easily aroused, as the result of even such ‘non-sexual’ parts of their bodies as hands being touched.
This is exactly the reason why, as today’s sexologists are being well aware of, whereas; male sexual arousal can me compared to a skin-itch, which goes away after having been scratched, female sexual arousal is best allegorized in terms of a skin-rush, which only gets worse, while scratched.
Whereas, men are only sexual from time to time, women are always sexual. Therefore, there is nothing surprising about Mabel’s assumption that, by having undressed her, Fergusson wanted to express his true feelings. As Weininger noted: “If a woman were asked what she meant by her ‘ego’ she would certainly think of her body…
The pride of the female is something quite peculiar to herself… it is an obsession by her own body” (122). There is another peculiar aspect of the female sense of self-identity – women are only able to become fully conscious of themselves, if they succeed in ensuring that men do covet them sexually.
According to Weininger: “A woman does not value herself by the constancy and freedom of her personality… (she) can only value herself at the rate of the man who has fixed his choice on her; if it is only through her husband or lover that she can attain to a value in her innermost nature” (123).
This explains the actual significance of the scene, in which Mabel appears to radiate a strong emotional triumph, because of her realization of Fergusson’s ‘love’: “She looked at him again, with the same supplication of powerful love, and that same transcendent, frightening light of triumph…
He (Ferguson) was powerless” (141). Apparently, it only took Mabel less than a second to attain the sensation of self-worthiness, as a result of having assumed that Fergusson was in love with her all along – hence, causing this character to instantly drop the thoughts of suicide.
Thus, Lawrence’s exploration of the theme of a ‘female sexuality’ does not merely appear to be fully legitimate in the conceptual but also in the ideological sense of this word, as it does undermine the politically correct myth that the particulars of people’s gender-affiliation have no effect of their cognitive predispositions. After all, as it can be seen in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, this is far from being the case.
Women are women and men are men. Moreover, women cannot live without men and men cannot live without women – this is just the way things are. Denying this fact, as feminists do, constitutes a violation of the laws of nature. This message is clearly conveyed between the lines.
Given what has been said earlier, it appears that there is indeed a good rationale in referring to this particular Lawrence’s story, as being intellectually enlightening to an extent that even today, it continues to provide readers with the scientifically sound insights into the societal significance of the surrounding reality.
This is the reason why The Horse Dealer’s Daughter will continue to emanate a strong reading-appeal into the future. I believe that this conclusion fully correlates with the paper’s initial thesis.
Lawrence, David Herbert 1914, The Horse Dealer’s Daughter. PDF file. 27 Mar. 2013. <http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/Electronic%20Reserve%203400/Horse%20Dealer’s%20Daughter.pdf>
Weininger, Otto 1906, Sex & Character. PDF file. 27 Mar. 2013. <http://www.theabsolute.net/ottow/schareng.pdf>