How would one summarize the life of a horse based on Anna Sewell's Black Beauty?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her children's novel Black Beauty, Anna Sewell paints the life of a horse as being full of hardships; she even likens a horse's life to that of a slave. However, she also offers a ray of hope by showing that horses' lives are made much easier, even happy, when masters are educated and sensible enough that they can refrain from foolish behavior and cruelty.

In Sewell's story, Black Beauty's happiest early days are spent at Farmer Grey's, where he was born as a colt and raised, and at Squire Gordon's Birtwick Park, his first master's home. It is at these two homes that he receives nurturing care. Sewell uses the description of these two homes to paint horses as loyal hard workers who do their best when treated with the most compassion, understanding, and gentleness.

As the story progresses, Sewell paints horses as being enslaved as laborers to cruel masters. When Squire Gordon must sell his home and horses to tend to his wife's illness, Black Beauty begins to find himself in harder work environments under crueler masters, masters who treat him as nothing more than a slave laborer. Sewell uses the descriptions of these homes to show how much suffering the foolishness and cruelty of mankind can inflict on not just human slaves but on innocent enslaved animals as well.

However, unlike human slaves, Black Beauty ends his days fully recovered from the past cruelties inflicted upon him and happy in his final home owned by kindly ladies. He is also under the good care of Joe Green, a stable boy from Squire Gordon's who grew up to be an excellent groom:

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. (Ch. 49, Pt. 4)

Sewell uses this happy ending to show that horses require little to make them their happiest; all they require is love and care.