Study Guide for “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter” (D. H. Lawrence, 1922)

dhlawrence-selected-short-stories-penguin-booksDiscussion Questions for D. H. Lawrence’s “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter” (1922)

1.What does the title of the story reveal about the portrayal of Mabel?

2.On reading the 1st paragraph, what sense do you get of the relationship between Mabel and her brothers? Do the following opening paragraphs reinforce this view? Why? Why not? Please provide examples from the other paragraphs to justify your opinion.

3.Identify the animal imagery used in the description of each of the brothers and comment on what such imagery signifies about the characters and the social values of their time.

4.Comment on the following quotation: “His [Joe’s life] was over, he would be a subject animal now.”

5.In relation to the following quotation, comment on the reason(s) for Mabel’s silence: “They had talked at her and round her for so many years, that she hardly heard them at all.”

6.How do you think the way Jack Ferguson is dressed up in earlier parts of the story helps you understand his personality?

7.Comment on the significance of the following quotation: “At this point Mabel rose from the table, and they [Mabel’s brothers and Jack Ferguson] all seemed to become aware of her existence.”

8.The narrator seems to emphasize the eye contact between Mabel and Jack. Identify in which sections of the story these eye contacts are emphasized and discuss how they contribute to the story’s thematic concerns and development. (Suggested reading: “D. H. Lawrence and Tradition”, by Jeffrey Meyers, Studies in Short Fiction, Summer 1989, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p. 346)

9.Identify the paragraphs in which the narrator tells us about Mabel’s father, her mother and her mother’s grave. How does this information in these paragraphs help you understand Mabel?

10.Why does the narrator describe Jack Ferguson as “slave to the country-side”?

11.Comment on the significance of the following quotation: “It was grey, deadened, and wintry, with a slow, moist, heavy coldness sinking in and deadening all the faculties.”

12.What does Jack Ferguson think about working class people? What makes him think so?

13.The pond is a major symbol in the story. Examine its symbolic value by providing quotations from the story. Discuss whether it always symbolizes the same thing whenever used or whether it is polysemic.  What really happens in the pond?

14.Think about what the following can symbolize in the story: the kitchen fire, the whisky, the blanket, the hand, the flame.

15.How does D. H. Lawrence portray Mabel and Jack after Mabel regains consciousness in the kitchen? For example, why is Jack Ferguson described as “amazed, bewildered, and afraid”? Why does he kiss her “half in anger”?

16.Towards the end of the story, after Mabel and Jack change their clothes, we can see a change in their behaviors. How? Why? For example, why does Mabel tell Jack that she does not like him “in those clothes”?

17.What does the story tell you about the nature of love in general? What does the story reveal about social class and love? What do you think will happen to Mabel and Jack in the future?

© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, January 2009

Useful links: D. H. Lawrence: Biography – Penguin Books / The Life of Lawrence: BBC World Service / Buy the book here /


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