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Literature Study GuidesBlack BeautyPart 3 Chapters 38 40 Summary

Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Part 3, Chapters 38–40 | Summary



Chapter 38: Dolly and a Real Gentleman

Jerry Barker and Black Beauty struggle to stay warm and dry in winter. Cabs often have to wait outside for long periods of time, and navigating wet or icy streets is hard on horses. Dolly Barker often brings her father warm food from home while he waits for someone to hire his cab. Although some of the other cab drivers wait in the tavern for fares, Jerry, who doesn't drink, prefers the coffee shop.

One day as Jerry is eating, a man approaches to hire the cab. Jerry stops eating, but the man insists he finish his lunch and make sure Dolly crosses the street safely. Jerry is impressed by this kindness. This "gentleman" begins to hire Jerry's cab often, sometimes taking time to stroke Beauty and speak kindly to him. Beauty says "ninety-nine out of a hundred would as soon think of patting the steam engine that drew the train." Jerry and Beauty also see the man intervene to stop a drunk cart driver from beating his horse. Beauty hears the man, whose name is Mr. Wright, tell a friend, who has asked why he bothers to intervene in others' business, "If we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt."

Chapter 39: Seedy Sam

Beauty is lucky to have Jerry Barker as an owner. Other drivers who don't own their own horses must rent them from big cab owners. The drivers are forced to pay exorbitant fees and work long hours just to break even. One of Jerry's colleagues, Seedy Sam, vents his frustration and desperation after being teased by another cabbie. Sam complains about being poor and exhausted from cab work, detailing the impossibility of making a living because they are subjected to fixed rates and passengers' tightness about money. Sam continues by explaining that he doesn't mistreat his rented horse out of cruelty but because he has to choose between overworking the horse and feeding his family. The others sympathize with him. A few days later, Sam is too ill to work, and the day after, he is dead.

Chapter 40: Poor Ginger

One day an old, worn-out horse speaks to Beauty. It is Ginger, though he never would have recognized her. She tells him she never fully healed from the hard riding at the earl's and was sold repeatedly, always into worse situations. Now she is a horse for the same kind of cab company Seedy Sam worked for, with never a day of rest. Beauty asks if she stands up for herself as she once did, but she replies, "It's no use; men are strongest ... if they are cruel and have no feeling, there is nothing that we can do but just bear it." She wishes to die at work rather than be sent to the knackers and tells Beauty he was her only friend. A little while later Beauty sees a cart carrying a dead horse that looks a lot like Ginger. Beauty hopes it is in fact Ginger, so she would finally be free from suffering.


Although Beauty has a respite from suffering, Anna Sewell continues to foreshadow a perilous future. Chapters 39 and 40 present Sewell with an opportunity to expose readers to the evils of large cab companies, with a stable of horses and a big group of drivers who rent the horses by the day and end up overworking them. Seedy Sam works seven days a week and cannot make enough to provide for his family or ever rest his horse. Furious about his desperate situation, he can do nothing to save himself. Jerry is better off than Sam because he owns his cab and his horses, and he can take Sundays off. Yet much of what Sam describes in the cabman's life could apply to Jerry as well.

In the next chapter, Sewell foreshadows Beauty's possible fate by briefly reuniting Beauty with Ginger. Ginger already talked of being ruined in Chapter 27 at the earl's. Now she is truly ruined, begging for death. Ginger was Beauty's closest friend. When he hopes Ginger has died, the reader feels the true horror of what Ginger's life became.

Sewell links these stories together for several reasons. First, both Seedy Sam and Ginger suffer at the hands of large cab owners. More important, both hint at what could happen to Jerry and Beauty in the future. Jerry, like Sam, could grow ill from overwork. If anything happens to Jerry, Beauty could find himself in much the same situation as Ginger.

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