"I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play."
This quote from Black Beauty’s mother expresses one of the central themes of the story. Her philosophy of always doing good, being gentle, and giving a strong effort remain with Black Beauty for his entire life. Indeed, he is probably best described as the one who lives always by this advice.
"[But]," said she, "there are a great many kinds of men; there are good thoughtful men like our master, that any horse may be proud to serve; and there are bad, cruel men, who never ought to have a horse or dog to call their own. Besides, there are a great many foolish men, vain, ignorant, and careless, who never trouble themselves to think; these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense; they don't mean it, but they do it for all that."
This quote from Black Beauty’s mother expresses one of the key lessons of the book: that ignorance and cruelty both cause great harm, and that the former is just as bad as the latter. This idea is so important that Sewell has John Manly express a very similar sentiment later on.
"I felt from the first that what he wanted was to wear all the spirit out of me, and just make me into a quiet, humble, obedient piece of horseflesh. `Horseflesh'! Yes, that is all that he thought about," and Ginger stamped her foot as if the very thought of him made her angry.
This quote, spoken by Ginger, provides two important benefits. First of all it provides characterization of Ginger as a determined, brave and strong horse. The second is that it serves as evidence for the natural nobility of animals. Ginger and other horses refuse to be considered a piece of horseflesh; she demands to be treated better.
"For fashion!" said the old horse with a stamp of his foot; "for fashion! if you know what that means; there was not a well-bred young horse in my time that had not his tail docked in that shameful way, just as if the good God that made us did not know what we wanted and what looked best." "I suppose it is fashion that makes them strap our heads up with those horrid bits that I was tortured with in London,"
This quote, from Sir Oliver, expresses the theme that fashion and style are not justifiable grounds on which to torture or mutilate animals. No sort of mutilation can be beneficial; instead, he suggests, humans should leave this matter to God and not interfere with the natural order of things.
"Master said, God had given men reason, by which they could find out things for themselves; but he had given animals knowledge which did not depend on reason, and which was much more prompt and perfect in its way, and by which they had often saved the lives of men. "
This quote, from Squire Gordon, reiterates the religious theme of God creating things in the best of ways and providing for both humans and animals. Furthermore, through this quote, Sewell attempts to humble men. These creatures you consider to be so dumb, she suggests, can actually save your life through their intuition.
"Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? -- and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,' they think it is all right. "
Here John expresses Sewell’s condemnation against ignorance. Sewell has slowly been building her case against ignorance. In Sewell’s opinion, ignorance is nearly as bad as cruelty and often causes even more harm.
"Your master never taught you a truer thing," said John; "there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham -- all a sham, James, and it won't stand when things come to be turned inside out."
Through this quote from John, Sewell expresses her views of religion and belief. As this book is about encouraging kindness towards animals, she emphasizes kindness and goodness and she warns against people who talk about religion and yet do not practice. This motif of religion being a force of good, separate from the shortcomings of its adherents, continues throughout the story.
After this we continued our journey, and as they got out of the cab our friend was saying, "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt."
Here the gentleman puts into words one of the most important imperatives of the story: to stand up against injustice. Throughout the story multiple incidents occur where the hero must rise against the oppressor; here, Sewell is providing a verbal affirmation of those actions.
"[We] have no right to distress any of God's creatures without a very good reason; we call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words"
This quote is from the unnamed lady who takes pity on Beauty as his carter whips him and forces him to draw an overburdened load. She specifically uses the word "dumb," but she does not mean "stupid." Rather, she means "unable to express their thoughts." It is easier for humans to ignore the pain of animals because animals cannot express the fact that they are in pain. Sewell is arguing that the fact that the animals do not in reality speak does not mean that they do not feel pain or joy.
Willie always speaks to me when he can, and treats me as his special friend. My ladies have promised that I shall never be sold, and so I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple-trees.
This quote from Black Beauty is the last paragraph of the story. With it, Sewell provides a very happy, peaceful ending to Black Beauty’s life. The horse finds a home far better than he could have imagined, and this is a reference to strong hope. His mentioning of his friends is further evidence of the bonds of friendship between them.
Black Beauty Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Black Beauty is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Both novels are told from the perspective of the animal, both animals receive a wide array of treatment by the humans they come into contact with, both novels are centered around the innate behaviors of the animals they represent.
John Manly is the adept, kind, wise coachman of Squire Gordon’s estate. He takes a great liking to Beauty, who loves him very much in return. James Howard is Squire Gordon’s groom. He is a brave, skillful, and responsible young man.
Although many regard it as a novel clearly intended for children, Sewell did not explicitly limit her book to a children audience. Instead she stated that she intended for this book to encourage readers to deal with horses sympathetically and to...