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Literature Study GuidesBlack BeautyPart 1 Chapters 7 9 Summary

Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Part 1, Chapters 7–9 | Summary



Chapter 7: Ginger

One day Ginger asks Black Beauty about his upbringing and tells him about hers. She envies Beauty's gentle raising. Her own experience was much more typical for horses—not exactly abused or neglected, but roughly handled. She "never had any one, horse or man, that was kind" to her or that she cared to please. She was taken from her mother early, and her first owner did nothing beyond the necessities for her and the other horses. Boys threw stones at the colts and were never stopped, not even when a colt was injured. Between minimal attention and much harsher breaking in, Ginger began to see men as the enemy.

Chapter 8: Ginger's Story Continued

Ginger tells how she was sold to a "fashionable gentleman" who made her use the checkrein, a fashionable piece of horse tack that is uncomfortable and potentially damaging for horses. Ginger reacted badly to the pain of the checkrein and was sold again. She had many owners, some better and some worse, including those who beat her. She acknowledges John Manly and James Howard are gentle, and she tries to be gentler with them. Beauty, never having known a cruel master, thinks Ginger may be exaggerating about her bad experiences, but he is glad she is kinder with James and John. In fact, she is reacting well to kind treatment.

Chapter 9: Merrylegs

Merrylegs the pony is kept for the children to ride. However, some of the boys are a little too rough, and one day Merrylegs throws them off. He is matter-of-fact about it, saying boys must be broken in just as young colts are broken: teaching them respect but not injuring them. He explains to Beauty, "Boys ... think a horse or pony is like a steam engine or a thrashing machine," and they need to learn better. Ginger says she would have kicked the boys, but Merrylegs disagrees. He sees himself as responsible for the children and would never do anything to injure them seriously. He admits, too, that if he did, he might be "sold off in a jiffy, and no character." Merrylegs is aware of the benefits of their current home.


One of Beauty's closest friends, Ginger also serves as a foil for Beauty. Ginger's initial training was far harsher than Beauty's. The incident Beauty describes in Chapter 1, of the ploughboy throwing stones at him, takes on new significance here. When Ginger was young, boys often threw stones at her, and no human ever spoke up. On the other hand, Beauty's owner ensured Beauty and the other foals were safe.

Anna Sewell wants readers to recognize the varied ways in which a horse may be badly treated. Ginger's story is not one of abuse—at least not by the standards of that time—but Sewell explains in detail the practices that traumatized the horse. Ginger's description of her training is harsh. When men started to break her in, Ginger tells Beauty, I "could hardly draw my breath ... another [man] took my under jaw in his hard hand and wrenched my mouth open ... one [man] dragged me along by the halter, another flogging behind." Ginger also objects to the term horseflesh, with its implication of horses being meat rather than living individuals who feel pain and suffer.

Ginger's story illustrates how a cycle of violence can perpetuate itself. Ginger's rough early life has made her distrustful of humans. Later, this history causes her to act aggressively to John and James, even though they are kind. John and James forgive her, but many others might not.

Ginger talks repeatedly about the checkrein. A checkrein, or bearing rein, is a short rein or strap that connects the horse's bridle (the leather straps around the horse's head) to the harness on the horse's shoulders and back. The check rein keeps the horse's head lifted and the neck arched, a position considered more attractive than the horse's natural position. Some riders and drivers use checkreins even today, although the practice is less common than it was in Sewell's time, especially because the checkrein can be uncomfortable or even injurious for the horse, depending on how tightly it is set.

Although Beauty's first home is safe and happy, Sewell reminds readers that thoughtless cruelty can happen anywhere. Merrylegs suffers with the local children who, he says, think of him as a machine. This "horse versus machine" contrast will come up again later in the novel as well. However, Merrylegs is careful not to injure the children. Initially, he sounds almost parental about them, but then he speaks of being sold with "no character." The phrase often appears in Victorian-era writing, usually concerning servants. Servants who were fired would be turned out without a character reference, meaning with no positive recommendation for their next position. Such a situation was disastrous for servants, for future employers wanted proof of good behavior—honesty, willingness to work, and obedience to rules. Sewell repeatedly draws parallels between horses and servants, perhaps for the purpose of encouraging people to treat their animals more humanely. Children's literature in Sewell's time typically reflected middle-class and upper middle-class values, so the idea of treating a faithful servant humanely would strike home for most readers. Moreover, Sewell's moral sense would not permit ill treatment of any creature.

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