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Black Beauty | Study Guide

Anna Sewell

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Black Beauty | Quotes


I never yet could make out why men are so fond of this sport ... but we are only horses, and don't know.

Duchess, Part 1, Chapter 2

Black Beauty's mother neither understands nor approves of hunting. Speaking plainly, she cannot see its purpose and explains its dangers. However, in an example of verbal irony, she views her and other horses' knowledge as unequal to human wisdom and does not expect to understand them.


I never had any one, horse or man, that was kind to me, or that I cared to please.

Ginger, Part 1, Chapter 7

Ginger makes this sad revelation when she tells Black Beauty the story of her life. With such a lonely early life, it is unsurprising that Ginger becomes a difficult horse. According to the author, early training and treatment are crucial in forming a horse's attitude and behavior.


Boys, you see, think a horse or pony is like a steam engine or a thrashing machine

Merrylegs, Part 1, Chapter 9

Merrylegs's assessment of the boys' behavior brings up one of the novel's themes: the problems that arise when people treat an animal like a machine, which has no feelings.


We horses must take things as they come, and always be content and willing so long as we are kindly used.

Sir Oliver, Part 1, Chapter 10

Sir Oliver, an older horse belonging to Squire Gordon, gives Beauty advice much like the advice his mother, Duchess, has given him. However, Sir Oliver is more self-protective. He says horses should be good if they are treated well.


Cruelty was the Devil's own trade mark, and if we saw any one who took pleasure in cruelty, we might know who he belonged to.

James Howard, Part 1, Chapter 13

Anna Sewell was a devout Christian and frequently refers to Christian theology. This story, linking cruelty to animals with the devil, is one of her harshest criticisms in the book. Although others might be ready to ignore injuries to a fly, Sewell sees them as signs of larger problems and exhorts the reader to do likewise. Because the boy, whom the story is about, has already been seen beating his pony, he clearly is moving toward greater levels of violence and abuse.


People may talk ... about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be ... kind to man and beast, it is all a sham.

John Manly, Part 1, Chapter 13

Although not well educated, John has his own theology, which meshes nicely with Jesus's statements in the Bible. John emphasizes actions rather than words. In the Bible, Jesus values those who do the right thing more than those who say the right thing but do not follow through with actions.


Give me the handling of a horse for twenty minutes, and I'll tell you what sort of a groom he has had.

The old ostler, Part 1, Chapter 15

The old ostler is experienced with horses and has his own methods of handling them. Anna Sewell wants the reader to consider, as the ostler does, how a horse's previous handling might affect its current behavior. Because Ginger already has told her story, the ostler's evaluation seems accurate.


Train 'em up in the way they should go, as the good book says, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

The old ostler, Part 1, Chapter 15

Although the old ostler appears only briefly in the book, he shares one of the author's profound philosophical moments. Horses are compared with children, as the ostler cites a biblical passage familiar to many readers. Therefore, if horses are like children, then mistreating them is very serious. Although Victorians certainly did not view childcare the way modern parents do, there would have been a moral imperative from the Church to care for one's children. Sewell wants to extend that imperative to one's animals as well.


How can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?

John Manly, Part 1, Chapter 19

Ignorance is no excuse for mistakes or misbehavior, according to John Manly—and Anna Sewell. This idea fits with the Victorians' increasing emphasis on universal education. Later, Beauty suffers because of ignorant owners, riders, and drivers. Sewell does not view their ignorance as an excuse. They have an obligation to learn how to handle a horse if they will be dealing with one.


I believe we horses can tell more by the voice than many men can.

Black Beauty, Part 1, Chapter 21

Black Beauty is an extraordinarily perceptive character who often recognizes the unspoken emotional state of those around him. Sewell partially attributes this to a general sensitivity in horses, which fits the veneration of nature theme that appears periodically in the early parts of the novel.


Here we are—ruined in the prime of our youth and strength, you by a drunkard, and I by a fool; it is very hard.

Ginger, Part 2, Chapter 27

Ginger sums up what has happened to Black Beauty and herself because of humans. While Ginger is pessimistic, later events prove her right. Neither she nor Beauty will ever be as strong again, and their perceived value will diminish greatly.


Good Luck is rather particular who she rides with, and mostly prefers those who have got common sense and a good heart.

Governor Grant, Part 3, Chapter 35

Grant, the cabbies' unofficial leader, makes this proclamation in front of Jerry and several other drivers. He is addressing another cabman, but his comments are about Jerry, who has both common sense and a good heart. Later, Jerry does have good luck, and the reader feels he deserves it.


If a thing is right, it can be done, and if it is wrong, it can be done without ... A good man will find a way.

Jerry Barker, Part 3, Chapter 36

Jerry, like John Manly, is a poorly educated man who has his own theology. Like John, Jerry emphasizes actions. Anna Sewell puts these moral arguments in the mouths of her poor characters for a reason. If working men without vast financial resources can make moral decisions, then the more fortunate readers should be able to do the same.


It's no use; men are strongest, and if they are cruel and have no feeling, there is nothing that we can do but just bear it.

Ginger, Part 3, Chapter 40

Ginger, the horse who always fought back, no longer believes there is a point in fighting. She wants to die. Her broken spirit may be more upsetting to Black Beauty than her broken body. Certainly readers will be struck that Beauty's reaction is to hope Ginger dies soon, but they never know exactly what broke Ginger's spirit completely.


Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these.

Jerry Barker, Part 3, Chapter 43

Jerry quotes the Bible after he helps the woman and her sick child get to the hospital. These words express Jerry's Christian faith and also foreshadow his future. According to the Bible, those who have done good deeds are permitted to enter heaven. Helping those in need is both a good deed and an indication of godliness. It is an act that pleases God. In this case it helps Jerry, too, by putting him in touch with his wife's old employer, who later offers him a job that will make his family's life something of an earthly paradise.

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