Controlling the movements of the short stories, death is a regnant theme in D.H. Lawrence’s “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” and Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party.” Death brings forth consciousness and it excites the need for an epiphany within the protagonists. To a lesser extent, death creates tremors in the worlds of the antagonists. Death furthermore makes the indifferences of the secondary characters more pronounced. Affecting the lives of the protagonists, the antagonists, and the secondary characters of these two short stories, death plays an integral role in the themes of these works.
Lawrence’s “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” was originally called “The Miracle,” marking the protagonist’s rebirth of love out of death. Mabel, the twenty-seven year old spinster, is revived physically and spiritually after her submergence in the “dead cold pond” (2337). For a decade, Mabel played housekeeper for her “ineffectual brothers” and although she was not happy, the “sense of money…kept her proud, confident”(2334). After the death of Mabel’s father, the family’s horse-dealing business collapses and Mabel becomes “mindless and persistent, [enduring] from day to day” (2335). Distant from her brothers and receiving no visitors other than dealers and “coarse men” (2334), Mabel concludes that her life is like a barren field. Even though Mabel reassures herself that she “would always hold the keys of her own situation” (2335), she has already died a spiritual death – a death that is mirrored by the imageries of the desolate house and the “sloping, dank, winter-dark fields” (2334). Mabel does not have any hopes for ...
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... resonates throughout both short stories and it spurs the growths of the protagonists and antagonists, characters who reach new heights of understanding about themselves and others. These characters are also able to resolve the peace with death, the purgative process that transforms them. The secondary characters in these two stories are unfazed by death, thus uncovering their insensitivity towards the loss of others. Albeit tragic in many ways, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” and “The Garden Party” reveal glimmers of hope and humanity in the shadow of death.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter.” 1922. Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000, 2: 2330-2341.
Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party.” 1921, 1922. Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000, 2: 2423-2433.
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