So you've probably figured out by now that having a horse for a narrator isn't exactly ordinary. Communication is a big theme in Black Beauty for this very reason. Even though Beauty can tell us his story, he can't actually speak to the humans in his life. In Sewell's universe, horses can understand English perfectly and they can speak to each other, but they have to use other methods to communicate with people. Some people are great at understanding horses, but others need a little help, and because of this, language and communication—especially between humans and animals—is a big deal in this story.
Questions About Language and Communication
How does Anna Sewell show us how horses communicate with each other? How about with humans? What similarities and differences do you notice?
What are the most effective ways horses have to communicate with people? Why? How about the least effective? Why?
Are all humans equally good at understanding horses? If not, what makes some of them better at understanding horses than others?
Is Beauty ever frustrated by the limitations he has in communicating with humans? How do these limitations affect him?
Chew on This
Despite the fact that they can't speak, horses are remarkably good at communicating with people—if people are paying attention, that is.
Black Beauty shows us that sometimes you don't need words to understand someone or form a strong friendship.