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Literature Study GuidesBlack BeautyPart 1 Chapters 4 6 Summary

Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Part 1, Chapters 4–6 | Summary



Chapter 4: Birtwick Park

Black Beauty is sold to Squire Gordon. Kept in a lovely barn, Beauty meets 12-year-old Merrylegs, a fat little pony who is used by the children and young women in the squire's family. Beauty also meets Ginger, a tall mare known for her ill temper and biting. Merrylegs says Ginger suffered mistreatment by other humans before she came to the Gordons, and it soured her temper. Her bad attitude makes her less popular with the Gordon family and their servants. Merrylegs assures Beauty that Ginger's attitudes are not caused by the Gordons, for Birtwick Park is the best "place for a horse all round the country" and "John is the best groom that ever was."

Chapter 5: A Fair Start

Squire Gordon's coachman, who is in charge of the horses, is John Manly. His helper, the stable boy, is James Howard. John, Squire Gordon, and Mrs. Gordon all appreciate their new horse's temperament and behavior, and the squire's wife officially names the horse Black Beauty as a result. When Beauty overhears John and James talking, he learns Rob Roy, the horse that died because of the hunt, was his brother.

Teamed with Ginger, Beauty begins to pull the squire's carriage. Although Ginger is temperamental, she does her job well, and Beauty praises her, wishing never "to have a better partner in double harness." Beauty also develops a good relationship with Merrylegs.

Chapter 6: Liberty

Although Beauty acknowledges how lucky he is to have a good place, he misses the freedom he had in the pasture as a colt. Young horses in particular, he notes, need a lot of exercise. Sometimes he would be difficult to ride or drive because he had so much energy. Beauty says John helps him get out his "fidgets," but other grooms might have misunderstood, thinking Beauty was a bad or wild horse.


Beauty is grown up, although still young. His first experiences with humans are positive, and he is lucky to go to Squire Gordon's. Sewell illustrates Beauty's good fortune through his descriptions of the spacious, well-aired, and well-maintained stable, as well as through his pleasant interactions with the squire and his family.

Sewell also uses contrast to emphasize Beauty's situation. Ginger, who becomes Beauty's closest friend, had a rougher upbringing than Beauty, leaving her soured toward humans. Ginger is not an inherently bad horse. Merrylegs says Ginger's problems are the result of earlier mistreatment, and Beauty praises Ginger highly when they work together. Working "in double harness" requires horses to be well matched in size, speed, and—preferably—temperament. Beauty describes Ginger as an ideal partner, thus giving the reader a clear image of how outstanding Ginger must be.

Beauty is also contrasted with his brother, Rob Roy. He did not know he saw his own brother die as a result of the hunt. Presumably Rob Roy also belonged to the squire, since the squire's son was riding him. It is a sharp reminder that even horses in good homes still face risks.

In Chapter 5 Mrs. Gordon gives Black Beauty his name. Although the name may sound feminine to modern readers, the word beautiful was commonly used for both males and females. Sewell, like other Victorian novelists including Charles Dickens, chooses names deliberately for characterization. Black Beauty has an appealing nature and appearance, hence his name. Ginger is a distinctly flavorful spice and also refers to red hair. Black Beauty's friend Ginger is a chestnut horse and thus has a reddish coat. The pony's name is Merrylegs, a cheerful-sounding name that also suggests a lively step. James and John both have first names of apostles; Sewell's writing often reflects and alludes to Christian beliefs. Perhaps most noteworthy is John's surname: Manly. Sewell intends the name as a compliment. Though some of her readers might perceive gentleness toward horses as a weakness, Sewell portrays John as masculine as well as kind.

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