Horse Dealer’s Daughter Essay, Research Paper
The need to dominate and to be controlled
The Horse Dealers Daughter is a story about dominance and control. By the end of this story the
two main characters have moved very little from the places they started. Their unity serves only to
strengthen and instill their addictions. ?Love honor and obey? were the old words used in marriage
ceremonies when the woman was pledging her vows to a man. This statement conjures up thoughts of
subservience and control, which are good words to describe the way Mabel and Dr. Fergusson?s
marriage would have gone.
The easily over looked aspect of this story is that the events that take place are not influenced by
external factors but internal ones; those being submission and domination. In looking at this plot from a purely external perspective we see a romantic theme; a woman oppressed by three manipulative
siblings released by love when saved by a romantic prince type figure. In looking deeper at what the
imagery and subtle characterization say about these people this we see that their actions are more
complex and egocentric than the Cinderella story that a quick reading might elude to.
From the beginning of the story we see Mabel as the silent servant to her siblings. Lawrence paints
Mabel as a woman being controlled by her brothers. He uses heavy animal imagery in this beginning
portion. He describes the actions of some of the brothers as horse like, and their feelings as
animalistic. But specifically he describes Mabel as a girl that ?would have been good-looking, save for
the impressive fixity of her face, ?bull-dog,? as her brothers called it.? His description of Mabel?s
?bull-dog? face is the linking point to the dog being a representation of her. We see the way the family
talks to her when Joe talks to the dog as he feeds it from the table. ?You won?t get much more bacon,
shall you, you little b—-? The dog faintly and dismally wagged its tail, then lowered its haunches,
circled round, and lay down again.? In the brothers interactions with the dog we receive a wealth of
information about Mabel and Lawrence paints a portrait of the relationship and position she has in the
family. ?-the dog rose uneasily from the hearth-rug and looked at the party at the breakfast-table.
But still they sat on in ineffectual conclave.? ?The dog looked up at him in mournful distrust. From
this we can gather that she is seen as more of a dog than a person, talked at and not to, and like the dog
she has been domesticated over the last 10 years. There are some values that she holds, or at least
held, herself. ?So long as there was money, the girl felt herself established, and brutally proud,
reserved.? In the first part of the story what we are told about her is not very redeeming, and that is
that while she has been controlled and used most of her life her only depth of character holds vanity
over her connection to wealth.
It is this set up that allows us to see what kind of person it is trying to drown herself in the pond.
She is without the ability to go off on her own. Like the domesticated dog she would not be able to fend for herself if turned out into the world. This coupled with the loss of the only other thing in her life that mattered to her, which is the pride the stems from the power and money she was associated with, leads her to attempt suicide. She has nothing, and when faced with the proposition of reinventing herself, she chooses to remove herself creating the final submission which
is to life.
Doctor Fergusson is the antithesis of Mabel in that he is the dominator and the controller. The
doctor is genuinely lonely but what fulfills his need is the physical contact he gets from Mabel.
This egocentric desire correlates with his dominating personality. He does not love but lusts. The
void in his life that she fills is one of physical desire. Fergusson would benefit more from a prostitute than from someone he will have to now have to spend the rest of his life with. His vocation, in a way, gives him this in small doses. It allows him to walk into the houses and lives of the working class. These homes no doubt hold a certain voyeuristic pleasantness for him. Walking into them -being
able to rub up against families and unbridled emotion- may gave him a kind of contact high. ?it excited him, the contact with the rough, strongly-feeling people was a stimulant-? His lust is not for the tender love and bond that people share in marriage but for the passion and emotion he sees there, and his reaction is not cognitive but carnal, ?-applied direct to his nerves.?
As for the control factor, everything about him expresses this standpoint. His job is one of the
most obvious and considerable points of examination. He holds the lives of the people he treats in his
hands. His vocation puts him in a place where every day people have to submit to him. This
relationship is not unlike the one of Mable and him self . The first time that he really notices Mabel is
when he sees her in the graveyard. This scene itself is staged in a way that creates dominance and
submission through simple positioning. She ?lifts her eyes., to see him. Mabel is knelt down attending
the grave and Fergusson is standing, creating a visual model of power. It is also here, in this place of
death, that she is most happy and where the doctor recognizes her as more than just one of the
Pervin?s. As their eyes meet in this position they know the other has what they need, ?-feeling in some
way, found out by the other.?
The graveyard paves the way for the crescendo scene where their two twisted desires meet in the
pond. The pond too, is full of imagery that Lawrence has placed there for as reason, the most blatant
being the water itself. It is not described as pure or clean but as ?dead cold?, ?hideous?, and
?stagnate?. This putrid pond represents life.
Lawrence doesn?t see the world as blue skies and rainbows. He sees the dark industrial and often
painful, as was sure the case on his 19th century streets of London. There are several urban industrial
like references interjected to his descriptions of the place they live. The town is described as clustered
like smoldering ash. Even in what might be easily portrayed as a picturesque country setting he
describes it as, ?an atmosphere blackened by the smoke of foundries not far off.? The thick
constricting waist of urban life intrudes even on nature. So life is cold and hard and if Mabel could
have sunk to the depths of that and brought herself back up of her own volition she would have
emerged from a baptism of autonomy. Her cycle of servitude would have been broken and she may
have gone on to lead her own life, but it was not. It was at this time that her opposite swept in.
It was here that the doctor dove into the water and removed her. He took her away, took her clothes,
and dried the water of freedom from her body.
She awakens deeper into the world she wanted to escape than she knows. She is before a new
master holding the keys to everything she had before and more. Before her is a new controller and
status symbol to cling to. Besides being a new person to dole out what she needs in terms of
dominance she sees an elevation in status. Though not as esteemed a position as wealthy horse
dealer the doctor offers a social elevation slightly nearer to that which she lost 10 years before.
The institution of marriage itself is one, especially during this time period that provides shelter for Mabel?s need to be dominated and the doctor?s need to control. She will again be the servant to a male figure, cooking, cleaning, and clearing the table day in and day out and Jack will fulfill his physical needs while remaining in a loveless position of domination.