Either I really need to start paying more attention to the stories I read or I need to pick more straight-forward texts because this was another short story that took me a couple reads to understand. On my first read, I was really confused about why people were making the decisions they were, such as Jack Fergusson offering to marry Mabel. Or Mabel agreeing to it. Two characters who showed little to no acknowledgement of each other are suddenly in love–or at least that’s what it looked like to me. But it’s never that simple.
From the very title it becomes clear not only that this story centers around family but that the main woman in question is being connected directly to the man that has power over her life. I don’t mean to get feminist about this but I do think it’s an interesting choice and that it has some baring over how Mabel is presented to the reader. However, the father is dead before the story starts, leaving Mabel to decide what she will do with her life as her brothers separate and find other work. It’s interesting how the story starts with a focus on the brothers and slowly moves to Mabel, as if the narrative is following the progression of Mabel from the woman who keeps house for her family to a woman who is more than her relationship with her family.
Of course, like with many short stories, this all circles around death. At the beginning of the story, Mabel is unable to accept the death of her father because he was the glue that kept the family together–kept her world together. But, with her brothers leaving her, she starts to see death as a way of reuniting with her parents so she tries to kill herself by drowning in a pond.
Mindless and persistent, she seemed in a sort of ecstasy to be coming nearer to her fulfilment, her own glorification, approaching her dead mother, who was glorified.
However, the mind of Mabel, during this attempted suicide and the aftermath of it with Jack, is not shown to the read. Instead, we are given Jack’s perspective which makes it more difficult for us to understand her mental state. It drives home this feeling of isolation and loneliness that she is feeling.
It is also interesting that, even though the title implies otherwise, this is not a story about a horse dealer or really his daughter–since all of the horses are sold at the very start of the story. This is a story in which Mabel has to be seen as more than just her father’s daughter. That was my problem the first time I read it–I took her at face value when really there’s a lot more going on with her character. I mean, she’s pretty good at getting herself a doctor for a husband in a matter of minutes so take from that what you will.
Honestly, this is a fine story. Sure, there are a couple interesting things happening in terms of how consciousness and emotion is shown but there are better examples–even Sons and Lovers, one of D. H. Lawerence‘s other works, is better.