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Literature Study GuidesBlack BeautyPart 1 Chapters 10 12 Summary

Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Part 1, Chapters 10–12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10: A Talk in the Orchard

Black Beauty hears the story of Sir Oliver, one of Squire Gordon's other horses, who has an unusually short tail. Sir Oliver's tail was cut off when he was young because it was fashionable to have horses with cropped tails. The procedure was very painful, and it still bothers Sir Oliver because he cannot use his tail to chase off flies. Sir Oliver also describes how dogs have their ears and tails cropped, another fashion trend that is painful and potentially harmful to puppies. Although the pain goes away after a while, the dogs are left with nothing to protect the "delicate part of their ears from dust and injury." Sir Oliver then asks why humans don't "cut their own children's ears into points to make them look sharp" or "cut the end off their noses to make them look plucky?" Finally, the horse, "a fiery fellow," asks, "What right have they to torment and disfigure God's creatures?" Sir Oliver's indignation sparks Ginger's, until Merrylegs reminds them of their good fortune to be where they are now, and both calm down.

Beauty asks the other horses about the use of blinkers, which they all despise. Blinkers block horses' eyes so they can see only straight in front of them. The horses claim blinkers exist because humans do not trust their horses to behave properly. However, the horses argue they feel more frightened in the blinkers because they cannot see what is around them, and accidents could have been prevented if the horses had not been wearing blinkers.

Chapter 11: Plain Speaking

Squire and Mrs. Gordon are kind to all—people and animals. They make efforts to encourage good treatment for all horses in their area. The squire worked for more than 20 years to discourage the use of checkreins, and both he and his wife frequently stop people in the road and encourage them to treat their horses better. Beauty describes hearing Squire Gordon try to persuade his friend Langley, a military man, to stop using the checkrein. The squire points out how the apparatus impedes the horses' movement and compares it to soldiers trying to fight with their heads strapped to a board. Although Langley acknowledges the point, he doesn't readily agree to stop the practice.

Chapter 12: A Stormy Day

John Manly and Squire Gordon are out with Beauty when a bad storm begins. A fallen tree blocks their path, and they try to use a bridge to cross the river instead. Beauty senses something is wrong and refuses to cross the bridge, even when they use the whip on him. Suddenly a man appears, shouting that part of the bridge washed away. Had Beauty gone forward, all three would have drowned. John and the squire are deeply grateful for Beauty's instinctive wisdom, and they reward him with an especially good meal and extra straw.

Analysis

Anna Sewell adds to the growing body of information about horse care—indeed all animals—with new examples. Ginger has already testified about the checkrein. Now Sir Oliver describes the pain and unfortunate results of tail cropping. Sir Oliver describes pain and loss of function, but a cropped tail might also expose a horse to disease. As Sir Oliver points out, a shorter tail could lead to more fly bites. Because flies carry disease, a horse with a cropped tail might be more vulnerable. Furthermore, the tools used to crop the tail might not be clean and could lead to infections. Puppies whose ears and tails are cropped might suffer similarly. In both cases the cropping serves no purpose other than a fashion statement, and the practice is so abhorrent, Sir Oliver gets worked up enough to challenge humans to perform similar procedures on their own children, causing pain and disfigurement.

Sewell began by showing readers how to care for horses they own. Now, in these chapters, she begins to model how Squire and Mrs. Gordon advocate for animals they do not own. "There was no oppressed or ill-used creature that had not a friend in them, and their servants took the same tone," Beauty reports. Sewell offers persuasive arguments, such as Squire Gordon's discussion with his friend Langley, to convince others to abandon cruel practices.

The squire asks Langley to imagine his soldiers with "their heads tied to a backboard." He questions, "How would it be in a bayonet charge against the enemy?" This analogy offers another tactic: rather than focusing on kindness toward animals, it uses a practical claim. The horses are less effective and efficient at work when they are checkreined. Still, Sewell implies Langley is unlikely to change his ways. If not everyone can aspire to the level of the Gordons, Sewell hopes the reader will try.

Sewell's writing combines elements of two different literary movements: realism and romanticism. Realist writers sought to recreate ordinary life accurately and truthfully, without exaggeration. Certainly, Sewell would argue her representation of the daily experiences of carriage and riding horses is realistic. Realism was becoming more popular in the last decades of the 19th century, when Sewell was writing.

However, Sewell was also influenced by other literary movements, including the earlier Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. Romanticism often celebrated, even venerated, nature. Sewell reflects this ideal in Chapter 12, when she celebrates the wisdom of animals. Because of his animal instincts, Beauty saves the squire and John, who treat Beauty's action with a near-religious reverence: a sign of how God gives "animals knowledge ... prompt and perfect in its way." Sewell, writing to a largely Christian audience, suggests if God has given wisdom to animals, surely humans should be kinder to them. Readers will keep in mind, too, the author's strong moral convictions.

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