How would one write a character sketch of Jeremiah Barker in Anna Sewell's Black Beauty?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A character sketch is a description of a character written in such a way that the reader gets to know the character as a person, like creating a written snapshot of the character. A character sketch will include the character's values, a description of any specific mannerisms the character has when doing specific activities, and even a description of the way the character talks ("How to Write a Character Sketch," Northern Illinois University). Since a character sketch creates a snapshot, it is often recommended that the best way to create a character sketch is by telling a short story about that character. For this particular assignment, you are probably permitted to and probably want to pick and summarize a scene in which Jeremiah Barker, called Jerry, is a principle character, a scene you think best represents him as a person.

Jerry Barker is the London cab driver who purchases Black Beauty at a horse fair. Beauty describes him as the best caretaker he has had since John Manly, his best groom at Birtwick Park. Jerry is extra careful to make sure the "collar and bridle fitted comfortably" (Ch. 33). Beauty was also free of having to wear a check-rein or curb. Beauty also describes Jerry as being one of the best drivers he has known, always extremely considerate of his horses, being very careful never to wear them out. As a general rule, he refused to drive fast since he considered wearing out his horses to be immoral, except in times of extreme and clear emergency. Jerry is also a very religious man, making sure to keep his Sunday as a day of rest for both himself and his horses. As a religious man, he weighs all decisions by the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." He is also very careful to make his decisions based on what he feels is right and wrong:

If a thing is right it can be done, and if it is wrong it can be done without; and a good man will find a way. (Ch. 36)

One scene in the story that particularly depicts his character concerns the one Sunday that he does decide to work. In Chapter 37, one Sunday morning, Jerry's dear wife, Polly, tells Jerry that Dinah Brown has just received a letter informing her that "her mother is dangerously ill" and may not live through the rest of the day or night. Since it would be too difficult on her own health and take too much time to take the train, she asks Jerry if he'll drive her in the cab. Though Jerry dislikes the thought of losing a Sunday, he gladly obliges for he knows the Bible permits work on the Sabbath for emergency purposes such as "pulling a poor beast or donkey out of a pit," as Polly phrases it (Ch. 37). But, even so, Jerry is still very cautious to put as little strain on Beauty as possible, even taking care to borrow the butcher's light trap. After arriving at the farm house of Dinah's family, Jerry further demonstrates his kindness and consideration by asking permission to allow Beauty to run free for a time in the cows' pasture.

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Black Beauty

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