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One of the important devices Sewell uses in this book is writing in first person...or should I say first "horse?" Narrative point of view in fiction is a key concept that you can help your students understand through a dramatic activity.
Have them divide into groups and choose a section (or assign each group one) that they will dramatize. You can guide their dramatic creations by having them each choose a character from each scene (scenes that involves other horses are great) that they will play. Since the book is written in the first person, their task would be to see the story, each of them, from a different character's perspective and create a dramatic scene that will reflect multiple points of view. They should rehearse and present their scenes to their classmates.
After the presentations, have them discuss how they see the story differently by looking at the events from the eyes of other characters besides Black Beauty. This will help them begin to understand what a vital impact narrative voice has on novels and short stories.
Published in 1877, Anna Sewell's novel Black Beauty is credited with having effected the greatest changes ever regarding the treatment of animals. With this in mind, the children could make a list in one column of the mistreatment chronicled in the novel and then in another column write what the ethical treatment of horses should have been.
After this activity, students can extrapolate the work to consider other animals. For instance, students could organize their list and ideas about other animals into a paragraph which has as its topic The Importance of Ethical (you may need to simplify this word) Treatment for Animals. [Let the little artists illustrate, too!] A simpler version of this could be having the students write about how they would treat a horse (or other pet) if they had one. Demonstrations could involve real pets (?) or someone pretending to be a pet. [Making use of Halloween costumes]
Or, they could write about what animals treat us since Duchess, Beauty's mother and Beauty himself exhibit patience and other sterling qualities.
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