What is Black Beauty's character in Anna Sewell's story? 

What is Black Beauty's character in Anna Sewell's story?

 

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Black Beauty is the dynamic narrator and protagonist of Anna Sewell's story. A dynamic character is one who changes throughout the story. Though Black Beauty's character traits never change in the story, as the story progresses, he is shaped as he gains new understandings of the nature of the world and of the men who inhabit it.

In the opening chapter of the story, as a young colt, Black Beauty's mother informs him that he is "well-bred and well-born" and further gives him the following advice:

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. (Ch. 1, Pt. 1)

Black Beauty takes his mother's speech very much to heart, and it forms the basis of his character throughout the story. No matter how cruelly Black Beauty is eventually treated, he maintains his integrity by maintaining his gentleness, goodness, and devoted work ethic. One example is seen after he is sold to his second household, the household of a Duchess very fond of the fashionable check-rein that pulls horses' heads up, preventing them from being able to move them on their own. At one point, when being fixed into the check-rein, Ginger, his carriage partner, throws a fit. Black Beauty reflects that he had been angered by the people's treatment, and "if I had ever been used to kick or rear I am sure I would have done it then"; but, he restrains himself no matter how angry he becomes (Ch. 23, Pt. 2).

Beyond having strong integrity, he is also a very respectful and understanding horse. His respectful and understanding nature is seen when he meets other horses who do not have the same good natures as he has, but he does not pass judgement on those horses. For example, Ginger has a poor temper, but he soon admires and even loves her, fully understanding that it was the way she was treated by men that gave her her poor temper.

As the story progresses, Black Beauty learns more and more about the dual good and evil nature of the world and of its people. What he learns shapes and changes his character because his knowledge transforms him from a young, carefree, naive horse into a worldly-wise, compassionate, and understanding horse. Author Anna Sewell, a devout, gentle, and humanitarian Quaker, created a horse character with a very Christlike nature, for the more he suffers, though innocent, the more he maintains his loving gentleness.

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Black Beauty

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