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Literature Study GuidesBlack BeautyPart 3 Chapters 44 45 Summary

Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Part 3, Chapters 44–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 44: Old Captain and His Successor

Captain is seriously injured when a drunk driver loses control of his wagon and Jerry's cab tips over. Although Jerry is not seriously injured, Captain is. Furious, Jerry rants about those who put others at risk with their drunkenness. Jerry admits he once drank heavily but broke himself of the habit with help from God and Polly Barker. In spite of Jerry's best efforts, however, Captain will never be right again. Jerry arranges for him to be shot dead to end his misery.

Jerry gets a new horse, Hotspur. Hotspur once belonged to a nobleman but injured himself after running away. Although perfectly healthy and strong, the horse now has scars that render him "no longer fit for a gentleman's stables." Hotspur thinks cab work is demeaning at first, but as he gets used to Jerry, Hotspur tells Black Beauty "an easy mouth and a free hand made up for a great deal." After a week, he adjusts well to life with Jerry and Beauty.

Chapter 45: Jerry's New Year

The holidays are busy for cab drivers, who work long hours during these times. They have many customers and often must wait outside parties for hours, no matter the weather. One night, Jerry Barker is told to pick up customers at 11 p.m., but they make him wait out in the cold and sleet for more than two hours. They never apologize for being so late and grumble about paying for Jerry's time. The next day, Jerry develops bronchitis and cannot work. He gets worse and is near death but recovers, according to the doctor, in large part because he has abstained from alcohol. Harry Barker cares for the horses, and Governor Grant drives Hotspur, sharing the money he earns with Jerry's family.

Polly exchanges letters with her former mistress, Mrs. Fowler, who offers Jerry a job as coachman when he is well, and Jerry's family can live on her estate. It is wonderful news for the family but bad news for Beauty. Hotspur is easily sold to Governor Grant, but Beauty worries about his future. Polly, Dolly Barker, and Harry Barker are saddened to say goodbye to Beauty, and Beauty never again sees Jerry.

Analysis

As she has shown in earlier chapters, Anna Sewell was deeply concerned about the consequences of heavy drinking. Captain's injuries, caused by a drunk cart driver, raise the topic again. This time Sewell gives a concrete example of how someone can overcome a drinking habit. Surprisingly, her example is Jerry. Although Jerry is a model citizen now, he was once a heavy drinker, who "cured" himself through relatively minor actions, such as drinking a cup of coffee or reading a book. No modern medical professional would suggest these as a treatment for alcoholism, but they fit with Victorian ideas about alcoholics. The Victorians generally believed alcoholics were weak and lacked moral fiber. They thought simply exercising a little self-control, as Jerry does, could resolve any drinking problem.

Sewell has established Jerry's good intentions toward his horses. If Jerry's best solution for Captain is to have him shot, readers should have no doubt about the severity of Captain's injuries. Horses are surprisingly delicate, and even modern veterinary medicine acknowledges that horses may suffer untreatable injuries that require euthanasia. In fact, a bullet to the brain remains a legitimate choice for euthanizing horses. This incident reinforces how little control horses have over their lives. Captain survived a war zone, was lucky to have a good owner, and still lost his life because of another human's carelessness.

The author's name choices strike again with Hotspur. Aside from the obvious sound of the name, it is a reference to Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1. Hotspur is the nickname of a hot-tempered and rebellious young nobleman who stands against the king and ultimately dies in combat. Since Beauty and Hotspur do not have much time to get acquainted, the name alone paints a picture of what Beauty's new partner must be like. It also suits a high-quality horse that has come down in the world, which is certainly how Hotspur presents himself.

Sewell's foreshadowing finally comes to fruition for Beauty and Jerry. True to the novel's point of view, Sewell provides very few details of Jerry's illness, about which a horse couldn't know. Bronchitis, the only diagnosis mentioned, is not generally life threatening today. However, if left untreated, or treated with Victorian medical knowledge, it could develop into pneumonia. Sewell establishes the severity of the illness through others' actions. If he could manage it, Jerry would be out with the horses. He would not depend on another cabbie's work to feed his family. Jerry's illness is very grave indeed.

One of Sewell's themes, reinforced in these chapters, is that good people are rewarded. Governor Grant, not a soft-hearted person, gives up some of his own income to help Jerry's family. Polly's old employer offers Jerry a new job with better circumstances for the whole family. However, the other side of Sewell's theme is also touched on here: horses, no matter how good, may not be rewarded. There is no good news for Beauty in these chapters. Jerry says he wants to put Beauty in a good home, but Beauty has heard that before. Squire Gordon thought sending Beauty to the earl was doing the horse a favor, and readers know how that turned out.

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