Study Guide

Black Beauty Plot Analysis

By Anna Sewell

Plot Analysis


A Horse, of Course

We meet Black Beauty as a newborn foal at Farmer Grey's farm. He has a happy, secure childhood with his mom, Duchess, although he witnesses the mistreatment and even death of other horses who aren't so lucky. Duchess makes sure Beauty is raised with a strong sense of morals, teaching him that horses always do their best no matter what. Farmer Grey trains Beauty carefully, making sure he's used to the bridle, saddle, and any frightening obstacle that might get in his way. Looks like our little horse is on his way to great things.

Rising Action

Outstanding in His Field

Farmer Grey sells Beauty to Squire Gordon, and Beauty begins his life at Squire Gordon's estate, Birtwick Park. At Birtwick, Beauty works as a carriage and riding horse, earning the love and admiration of Squire Gordon and his wife. Beauty also gets to know his stable mates, horses who become his closest friends—Ginger, hot-tempered and previously mistreated, and Merrylegs, a good-natured pony.

Beauty's groom, John Manly, is basically the best groom ever, and John trains two different stable boys who are also capable and kind. Things aren't always peaceful, though, and Beauty rides hard to fetch a doctor one night, saving Mrs. Gordon and getting sick himself. But overall, Beauty definitely knows that life at Birtwick is pretty darn amazing.


Friends, Don't Drink and Ride

A series of unfortunate events causes Beauty's good luck to take an abrupt turn. Mrs. Gordon falls ill, and the Gordon family decides to leave Birtwick and sell their horses to move to a sunnier climate. Beauty's new owners, at Earlshall, are not nearly as kind and careful as the folks at Birtwick. Beauty starts to learn the misery of the fashionable bearing rein, a trendy bit of horse tack that holds his head uncomfortably high.

Despite this, Beauty proves himself to be a heroic horse, sprinting again to save a lady in distress. But when alcoholic groom Reuben Smith takes charge, everything changes. Smith gets wasted one night and rides Beauty home, causing Beauty to take a fall that kills Smith in the process and scars Beauty forever.

Falling Action

Riches to Rags

With his knees permanently scarred, Beauty no longer makes a fashionable carriage horse, and he's sold from owner to owner, going downhill all the way. He works as a horse for hire, pulls carts, and withstands clueless and ignorant treatment. Every time he's treated poorly, his health gets a little worse, and this vicious circle sends him right down the chain of horse jobs until he's sold to a kind London cabbie named Jerry Barker.

Beauty spends a long time as a London cab horse, and it seems like his luck has changed—Jerry is a wonderful owner and a fantastic human being—but Beauty's good fortune doesn't hold. Jerry gets sick after a long, freezing shift in the London winter and decides to move to the country (hmm, déjà vu?). After his happy time with the Barker family, Beauty's sold to a series of hellish owners and eventually is driven until he drops. Literally.


Happily Ever After

Amazingly, Beauty survives, and even more amazingly, he escapes his hellish owner. He's sold to a kind farmer and his grandson, who rehabilitate him so that he can have a shot at a better life. They finally sell him to a nearby family, and their groom turns out to be one of Birtwick's former stable boys, Joe Green. Joe recognizes Beauty, and the family vows never to sell the horse again, guaranteeing him a happy life for the rest of his days.

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