The Horse Dealer's Daughter | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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The Horse Dealer's Daughter | Context


Modern English Novelist

Lawrence first was recognized as an intellectual who came from a humble beginning and could produce realistic portrayals of working class life and relationships. Through his stories of working class people in the countryside, he explored relationships between men and women and people of different classes, the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution, and the destructive power of wealth and materialism.

Critics later in his life considered him one of the most influential writers in the genre of English modernism. Modernism was a literary movement that began in the early 1900s and lasted until about 1940. Modernists reacted to the society and the world around them which was changing drastically due to war, increasing industrialization, and globalization. They rebelled against the traditional definitions and limits of literature and began pushing the boundaries. Many modernists pushed the boundaries by changing the form of literature. Writers rebelled against the traditional form of telling stories as a logical series of events. They experimented with more free-flowing forms of storytelling including stream-of-consciousness writing which attempts to capture the natural and often unorganized flow of characters' thoughts and feelings. Lawrence, on the other hand, pushed the boundaries by expanding the range of subject matter included in fiction. His explorations of relationships and descriptions of characters' sexuality shocked many readers of the time and led to the banning of some of his books.

World War I

"The Horse Dealer's Daughter" was written against the backdrop of World War I (1914–18). Lawrence, like many authors writing in the early twentieth century, was profoundly impacted by the war. By the time it was over, more than 16 million people—civilians and soldiers—were dead and many more physically and psychologically impaired. The war had great economic impacts, too. The years after the war were marked by cuts in wages and vast unemployment in Britain. There were shortages of food and many supplies, including paper, which made it difficult to publish books. Lawrence was writing throughout the war years, but he and Frieda were chronically short of money during this time. Lawrence also felt the social and emotional impacts of the war. British citizens were traumatized by the loss, injuries, and death of the war. Lawrence observed how the war years challenged traditional gender roles as more women entered the workforce. Before the war most women worked in the home—either their own home or the homes of others' as servants and maids. Between 1914 and 1918 an estimated two million women took over jobs left behind by men who had left for war. As a result women's personal and social lives began to change as they became less reliant on men. After the war some women were ready to go back to the home, but others were eager to retain their personal and financial independence from men. Lawrence explored this feminist perspective and its impact on the relationships between men and women in many of his works, including "The Horse Dealer's Daughter."

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