Black Beauty Characters

Themes and Characters

Sewell wrote Black Beauty to expose the widespread mistreatment of horses. She depicts horses that receive good care as well as those who are abused. The contrasts in the horses' personalities are sometimes startling. Three forms of cruelty come to light: deliberate cruelty, cruelty in the name of fashion, and cruelty committed in ignorance. On several occasions, innocent bystanders intercede on behalf of an abused horse, illustrating the idea that preventing cruelty to animals is everyone's responsibility. Sewell is particularly appalled at the common practice of using a device called a bearing rein (or checkrein) to prevent the horse from lowering his head.

Black Beauty's main equine companions are Ginger and Merrylegs. Ginger is a high-tempered horse whose training and temperament contrast sharply with Black Beauty's. She is badtempered largely because of the mistreatment she suffered when young, while Black Beauty is good-tempered largely because he enjoyed good treatment when young. And even Ginger, with all her problems, eventually quiets down during her time at Birtwick Hall, because of the calming effect of the humane treatment that she receives there. Merrylegs is a pony who, like Black Beauty, embodies the good results of humane treatment. Other major horse characters include Sir Oliver, whose tail was cut off when he was a colt, and Captain, a former cavalry horse.

The main human characters are Black Beauty's first owner,...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Black Beauty Characters

Lady Anne

Black Beauty is Lady Anne’s riding horse for a while at Earlshall Park, but she calls him Black Auster.

Dolly Barker

Dolly is the eight-year-old daughter of Jerry, the cab driver who owned Beauty. Dolly would bring food to her father at the cab stand.

Harry Barker

Harry is Jerry the cab driver’s twelve-year-old son. Harry capably helped with the care of the horses.

Jeremiah Barker

Jeremiah, called Jerry, was Beauty’s owner for three years. Jerry is a kindly and decent London cab driver. Jerry takes excellent care of his horses and does not believe that either he or they should work seven days a week. He is Sewell’s example of honesty and integrity in the working class and is the character she uses to express a number of moral lessons. Jerry finds reward in a job well done and is always willing to perform acts of charity. He loves his wife and children dearly and does not linger in taverns as the other drivers do, since he has been a teetotaler for ten years. When Jerry becomes so ill that he can no longer work as a cab driver, he sells Beauty to a friend he thinks will treat Beauty well.

Polly Barker

Polly is the wife of Jerry Barker. Polly is a merry, kindly woman who provides loving care to all around her. Her former employer thinks so highly of Polly that she keeps in touch through the years and offers Jerry a job and the family a home when Jerry has to give up his cab business.

Mr. Barry

Mr. Barry is one of Black Beauty’s owners after his knees are ruined. Mr. Barry is a gentleman who must rely on grooms to take care of Beauty, but after two dishonest grooms, he gives up on having his own horse and sells Beauty.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty is the narrator of the novel and is a “well bred and well born” handsome black horse with one white foot and a white star on his forehead. The character is possibly based on Sewell’s brother’s beautiful carriage horse Black Bess, or Bessie. Black Beauty is the son of a wise older mare named Duchess and the grandson of the winner of a famous race. Following his mother’s advice always to be good of heart and a hard worker, Beauty encounters a variety of good and bad owners and grooms, as well as enjoyable and miserable jobs during his life as a horse in Victorian England. Through Beauty and the other horses he meets, the reader learns about the mistreatment that horses often endure and the difficult nature of some of the work imposed on horses. The character of Beauty is Sewell’s device for making the public more aware of the need for more humane treatment of horses and other animals.

Beauty has a good start in life under the skillful care of Farmer Grey, then enjoys a happy time at Birtwick Park where his master is a knowledgeable advocate of humane treatment for horses. But that master must leave England, and Beauty’s life takes a downward spiral, thanks to a drunken groom who ruins Beauty’s knees in an accident. Fashion dictates that a blemished horse cannot pull a carriage, so Beauty begins an odyssey through a series of middle and lower class labors. While he enjoys three years with a wonderful cab driver, the work is hard and debilitating. Fate sends him to even harder work where he collapses and is almost sent to the slaughterhouse, but is fortunate instead to be sold to a farmer who rehabilitates Beauty’s health and finds him a pleasant home for the rest of his life.

The people and horses that Beauty meets in each of his jobs all have stories to tell that illuminate the situation of horses in that time period and reveal the natures of the people who are charged with their care. Beauty’s gentility and goodness, even during hard times, make him an enduring favorite among readers.


Blantyre is a guest at Earlshall Park and is riding Beauty when Lady Anne has an accident. He sends a workman and Beauty for help, and later praises Beauty.

Ellen Blomefield

Ellen is one of Black Beauty’s last owner. She and her sister employ Joe Green.

Miss Lavinia Blomefield

With her sister Ellen, Lavinia is Black Beauty’s last owner and Joe Green’s employer.

Mr. Blomefield

Mr. Blomefield is the vicar at Birkwick. He buys Merrylegs and hires Joe Green when the Gordons leave England.

The Butcher

The purpose of the character of the butcher is to give another example of a business owner who must cater to thoughtless customers and whose horse suffers as a consequence.


Captain is Beauty’s companion as a cab...

(The entire section is 1993 words.)