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Many authors are recognized by a reoccurring theme found throughout their works. The author D.H. Lawrence can be classified into this group. He is well known for his reoccurring theme that romantic love is psychologically redeeming. He wrote “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” , a short story that exemplifies this theme quite accurately, in 1922 (Sagar 12). Through excellent use of symbolism in “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter”, Lawrence renders his theme of romantic love being psychologically redeeming through the emotional development of the two main characters, Mabel and Dr. Fergusson.
In “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” symbols are used to fulfill the quest of happiness and love. This love story has many symbols, which show hidden meaning. One can fully understand a story, if one can point out certain symbols. Symbols create ideas and images for the reader to better understand the story. (Symbol)Mabel, one of the two main characters in this story, is depressed and suicidal. After her mother died, she feels like there is nothing to live for. Her mother was the love and joy in her life; without her, she is lost. All she has left is her house, which she is extremely proud of, and her brother, which she seems not to care for. She decides to release herself from her troubles by drowning herself in a pond. The other main character, Dr. Fergusson, sees her and tries to save her life. This pond is a strong symbol with many meanings. It is a start of a new experience, and a change of two people’s lives.
The pond is described as dead and cold. This symbolizes that Dr. Fergusson had no feelings for Mabel before the incident. The narrator describes the pond as lifeless right before the doctor had entered it. Before going in, the relationship between them was dead and cold, and they had no passionate feelings for one another. Dr. Fergusson tries to rescue Mabel for no other reason but because he was doing his job. The pond also describes Dr. Fergusson’s life as dull and pointless. His life was still and silent before he had met her. He was afraid to go in too deep into the pond, and was afraid of drowning. This represents his fear of falling in love. He was scared of the water because he could not swim, and also because he was scared of love.
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This pond symbolizes the start of their love for each other, since they fall madly in love afterwards. The water symbolizes baptism and rebirth, and when she steps into it, her troubles are washed away. It represents cleanliness and the start of new life. Her life before felt meaningless to her, and she wanted to get out of it. She had nobody to love and care for her, after her mother had died. She never tries anything new and when she finally does, something amazing happens to her. Dr. Fergusson’s life was just as pointless as hers was. He had a good job working with many kinds of people, but he did not enjoy his life. He had no love in his life, and without it, there is nothing to live for. The pond also symbolizes a new start of his life, since he finds love. It baptizes them and they both get a new sense of life.
When Mabel changes her clothes at the end of the story, she is starting her new life. The clothes symbolize a new and fresh experience, one of which she had never experienced before. Falling in love is something almost everyone wants in some point of their lives. It is an important element of happiness. In the beginning of the story, Mabel was dead and lifeless. In the end, she is happy and full of anticipation. When she is out of the wet and dirty clothes, she is freed from her troubles. The dirty clothes represent how she was before she fell in love. It also represents how she was suicidal and depressed. “She had on her best dress of black voile,” (The Horse Dealer’s Daughter pg.992) expresses her happiness and eagerness to start something new. Before she fell in love, she never wore clothing as elegant as this dress. This is something new to her and something she wants to try out. Her change of clothes also represents her change of personality and attitude. She changed from a quiet woman that always kept to herself, to a loving woman that is open- minded. She now feels that there is something to live for since there is someone to love.
Symbols are used to provide imagery and meaning in a story. One symbol has many meanings and different ideas. If symbols were pointed out in a story, it creates better understanding of it. In this story, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” by D.H. Lawrence, symbols are used as love progresses. The pond symbolizes the start of the love of Mabel and Dr. Lawrence. After they both go into the water, they come out falling in love with each other. The description of the pond suggests Dr. Fergusson’s feelings for Mabel before they fell in love. Just by including something simple as a pond in this story, many ideas are created. Water symbolizes many things, such as baptism and rebirth. It is a natural element that can be used for many reasons. Using simple components like water, it produces concepts for readers. The change of Mabel’s clothing represents her change of heart. She did not care for anyone before the incident in the pond had happened. This is a great way to end a story because it provides images and ideas of what will happen to them in the future. The change of clothes is a start of a fresh new life, and it suggests a happy ending for the two. By adding that symbol, the reader can imagine what will happen to Mabel and Dr. Fergusson later in their future. Symbols can also provide details that the author does not need to add. It renders thoughts and ideas for the readers to create and imagine for themselves.
Lawrence, D.H. The Horse Dealer's Daughter. Penguin English Library 1981
Niven, Alastair. D.H. Lawrence/ The Writer and His Work, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1990
Sagar, Keith. The Life of D.H. Lawrence, Pantheon Books, New York 1981
“Symbol” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction,
Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 8th ed. New York: Longman,