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Some say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. This cliche holds appropriately true for Black Beauty, a novel written and popularized by the crippled writer Anna Sewell (1877). The book tells about the life story of a horse. It answers a person’s curiosity about how a horse feels while surviving the cruelty of men. A heart-wrenching, beautiful, and enlightening tale and animal autobiography, the book gives life and voice to Black Beauty, a majestic horse.
Quite believable and unsentimental yet a great read book depicts the life cycle of a horse which, just like any other being that God created, deserves and expects proper treatment from people whom horses regard with respect and unconditional affection.
The book revolves around the life of the main character, a very wise horse named Black Beauty. The sufferings and misfortunes of Black Beauty made him rebel against the cruel humans. Some characters of the book include Duchness, the mother of Black Beauty; Ginger a very independent horse; and Merrylegs, the good friend of Black Beauty who has a big love for humans.
For the rest of his life, Black Beauty has been put into care of various owners who subjected him to different jobs—from being a riding horse on a country estate to a cab horse in the community. Although he always suffers from the harsh treatment of humans, the strength, gentle mood, and fine inherent aptitude of Black Beauty made him survive. Black Beauty is a true-to-life animal story book that is told from the eyes of the horse, not from a reader’s perspective.
Sewell’s (1877) book is an unusual narrative presentation which uses a horse as the first-person narrator as if the horse was the one who actually wrote the book. Black Beauty was considered to be the first book that employed the genre of animal autobiography which was previously seen in a limited fashion. The manner of displaying the literal substance of an animal as an animal itself rather than being presented based from human traits was adapted by other books with related story plots (Napierkowski, 1998).
In writing the book, Sewell (1877) aimed at advocating the humane and suitable treatment of horses. Hence, Black Beauty was recognized as the only writing in the literary history with the greatest impact or influence on the treatment of animals. As a result, the book has created and paved the way for a legislation that promotes the welfare of horses. It further altered public orientation about animal pain as well as the conventional and popular activities perceived as the ones that induce suffering for horses (Napierkowski, 1998).
A story told using the language and means of communication of a horse, the book tells how Black Beauty was treated with affection and respect when he was a young and healthy horse. It also illustrates how the horse fell into sickness and despair as he was passed from different careless owners. He received a lot of healthy pieces of advice from his mother during his youth. These lectures by his mother laid down the heart of the book and were used by Black Beauty as his life plan as he was passed down from one master to another, all of whom possess different, contrasting personalities—good, cruel and foolish.
This first ever full-length book narrated from a horse’s perspective and emotions is a sorrowful story of both the malicious and accidental cruelties that animals receive from the hands of their masters or owners. It is also a book of aesthetic literary work that can bring the reader from the wonders and beauty of an ordinary night in a country community to the power-laced world of Victorian London in the nineteenth century. With its captivating but realistic presentation of the life of an extraordinary horse, the book was able to capture not just the hearts of the young readers but of adults as well.
This is because the book generally portrays some similarity to the lives that people and horses experience—that both beings suffer cruelties and happiness. This book helped to the end human cruelty to horses and other animals. It signaled the formation of various animal-rights movements and forced more humane and justified treatment of human cabbies in London and the rest of the world. References Napierkowski, M. R. (1998). Black Beauty: Introduction. Novels for Students, 0. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from eNotes database. Sewell, A. (1877). Black Beauty. Norwich, England: Jarrolds & Sons.
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