Study Guide

Black Beauty Tone

By Anna Sewell


It's Life Lesson Time

Have you ever gotten a lecture from a parent that's hidden inside some kind of story? You know, about the daughter of their friend who forgot to study for a test, and then failed the class? It's easy to read between the lines: Your dad wants you to study. Well, if you're good at decoding your parents, you should be good at decoding the lessons between all the lines in Black Beauty.

So where are these hidden lessons? They're not hard to spot. Sometimes they're in words of advice from other characters, like when Duchess tells Beauty, "Do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name" (3.13). Sometimes Beauty overhears these lessons in conversations, like when Jerry Barker launches into a passionate speech about the importance of going to church on Sundays. Heck, there's even a chapter called "The Golden Rule." As we said, some of these life lessons are not exactly subtle.

Sometimes it seems like a scene is set up just to teach a particular lesson. We learn the evils of using a bearing rein in a scene where Ginger kicks and rears from pain and frustration, injuring nearby horses and grooms (23.3-4). Beauty's near-death encounter with a stable fire is a thinly disguised reminder not to leave burning pipes in a hayloft (26.21). And of course, Beauty's tragic downfall is caused by a drunken groom, who falls to his own tragic death in the process (25.7-9). If that's not a stern warning about alcohol, we don't know what is.

There are so many morals and lessons in this book that it's tempting to call the tone, well, preachy. But the overall message of kindness to animals is so worthwhile that it's easy to forgive any hidden—and not-so-hidden—words of advice.

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