Course Hero. "Black Beauty Study Guide." Course Hero. 10 May 2019. Web. 23 Mar. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Beauty/>.
Course Hero. (2019, May 10). Black Beauty Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Beauty/
(Course Hero, 2019)
Course Hero. "Black Beauty Study Guide." May 10, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Beauty/.
Course Hero, "Black Beauty Study Guide," May 10, 2019, accessed March 23, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Beauty/.
Black Beauty is sold to a baker. Although he has good intentions, the baker pays little attention to the horses, and the other workers overload the animals and push them hard. Beauty now must wear the checkrein while pulling heavy loads. When he struggles, he is whipped.
One day a lady stops the driver, Jakes, and asks him to cease whipping Beauty and release the checkrein. Jakes ridicules the idea but does it to please the lady. Jakes is surprised when Beauty pulls the cart better. The lady says humans have an obligation to be good to animals and tells Jakes "we call them dumb animals ... for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words." Jakes agrees to release the checkrein on hills, but will not promise to stop using it because the other drivers would laugh at him if he did. To this comment the lady answers, "Is it not better ... to lead a good fashion than to follow a bad one?" Impressed by being spoken to like a gentleman, Jakes does in fact loosen Beauty's rein and removes the checkrein when going uphill. Even so, Beauty gets worn down by all the hard work and is sold to a cab owner.
Beauty also comments on another problem for horses: poorly lit stables. The darkness sensitizes horses' eyes to light, causing considerable pain and difficulty seeing when the horses are exposed to daylight. Had Beauty remained there, he says, he might have lost much of his sight—a condition worse than complete blindness.
Beauty is now part of the large cab company for which Seedy Sam, in Chapter 39, worked. Its owner is a cruel man, Nicholas Skinner. Beauty's driver is equally cruel, and the horse is worked much too hard and whipped until he bleeds. One day a family tries to hire Beauty's cab, but the young daughter of the family says Beauty looks too weak and should rest. She wants to hire a second cab to carry part of their load. She is overruled, and they take Beauty's cab, piled with the family's luggage. Beauty collapses on the drive.
When Beauty makes it back to Skinner's stables, a farrier examines him and diagnoses his main problem as overwork. With six months' rest, Beauty would be fit and able to work again. But Skinner would rather sell him for meat than let him rest. When the farrier tells Skinner of a horse sale at which Beauty could fetch a better price, Skinner begrudgingly agrees to feed and care for Beauty properly and try to sell him to a new owner. Twelve days later Beauty, hopeful of improving his lot, is taken to the sale.
Nowhere else in the book is the whip mentioned as often as in these two chapters. Sewell emphasizes whips and beatings that draw blood. Being whipped under the belly and near the head causes great pain to two exceedingly delicate areas on a horse. Sewell even uses the word flogging, suggesting a level of abuse beyond what a horse might normally expect to endure. Beauty is being flogged for the third time by Jakes, when the lady intervenes.
Beauty is almost a Christlike figure, beaten and whipped and mistreated in the streets like Jesus carrying the cross before his crucifixion. Sewell is careful with this allusion, because it could offend her largely Christian audience, but the implication is there nonetheless.
These chapters feature two female characters who attempt to ease Beauty's burdens. One is referred to only as "a lady." While a modern reader may read that as simply a woman, Sewell intends it as a comment on class. A "lady" is an upper-class woman. Sewell doesn't claim all upper-class women are superior—witness the earl's wife and her insistence on checkreins in Chapter 22. But Victorians increasingly believed women served as men's consciences and the conscience for society as a whole. This belief focused largely on upper-class women, with Queen Victoria as the leading example. The other person who speaks up is the young girl who begs to spare Beauty from a long drive with a heavy load. This girl is already demonstrating the womanly virtues of charity and kindness, as contrasted with her father's gruff, "masculine" reaction, which emphasizes business. The girl's kindness and generosity toward Beauty also reflect a Victorian trend toward idealized children. In the Victorian era people began to think of children as inherently innocent and good. This girl makes only a brief appearance in Black Beauty, but she represents both the childlike and the feminine qualities (to Victorians) of gentleness and kindness.
The "lady" who tries to save Beauty from the checkrein claims the gentry she knows have not used the checkrein for 15 years. Presumably, her statement is an exaggeration. Beauty is later estimated to be 13 or 14 years old, and he has experienced the checkrein repeatedly. The only gentry in the book who do not use the checkrein are the squire's family.
Throughout the book Sewell refers to situations involving peer pressure. People force horses into unpleasant or dangerous situations because of what others will think. Jakes says his colleagues will laugh at him if he stops using the checkrein. To counter that comment, the lady insists the upper classes, who would be considered his "betters," no longer use them. Sewell most admires those who put the health and safety of the horses over peer pressure. Moreover, she repeatedly sets Jerry at odds with his peers: he doesn't drink, doesn't take rushing customers who might endanger his horses, doesn't work Sundays, and doesn't engage in political debates. John Manly is another who would happily push back against prevailing attitudes to do what he thinks is right. Because Sewell's stated purpose for the book is to encourage readers to be more thoughtful of the animals, she refutes the counterargument of "everybody does it" through the admirable behavior of two of her characters. The fact that these are lower-class characters is more interesting, since her audience would presumably be middle- to upper-class readers.