Jane's Reviews > Black Beauty

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

did not like it

Before I start complaining, can I just say that Anna Sewell was one cool, cool person? She was super cool. As a child, she suffered some kind of leg injury that was poorly treated, and as a result, she was unable to stand or walk without a crutch for the rest of her life. In order to get around, Sewell often used horse-drawn carriages and fell in love with horses. She wrote Black Beauty in order to combat mistreatment of horses. After it was published in 1877, it became a huge influence in raising the public's concern for animal welfare. Cool, cool person.

Unfortunately, I thought that Black Beauty sucked.

Black Beauty was not originally written specifically for children, but nowadays it gets marketed as a "children's classic". I must have seen it a hundred times in various libraries and classrooms during elementary school. I always passed up on reading it, because I didn't like reading books about animals, especially books that are narrated by animals. I probably never would have read it if I hadn't been given it during a book swap, which is what book swaps are for, I suppose.

Black Beauty, a horse, narrates the book in the first-person point of view. He is really, really annoying. He is whiny. He is perfectly well-behaved. He silently suffers at the hands of his nasty owners and always remains steadfast and loyal. One might argue that he has something of a martyr complex. To be sure, tons of terrible things happen to him and his friends. I guess that I was just a mixture of too old and too cynical to be sufficiently traumatized by the animal abuse descriptions.

What is kind of interesting is the fact that most of the main characters are horses or other animals, and so they are unable to communicate with their human owners or organize together to combat injustice. Yeah, I understand that animals cannot defend themselves against the cruelties of man and that the moral of the story is that we should all be kind to animals and stick up for them. Totally got that. The problem is that Black Beauty never gets angry and frustrated about his situation in life. Sure, he goes on and on about "Woe is me! The humans are so mean and all I want is to live on a nice farm and eat hay!", but that's literally ALL he does. He's a passive character who essentially resigns to his terrible fate without any form of resistance. In his place, I would be fuming. I might not actually be able to do anything, but I would be absolutely furious. I would totally think petty thoughts about my owners and imagine my revenge. I would totally rant about my futile desire to communicate with humans in a sophisticated manner.

Does Black Beauty do any of these things? Nope. He never wavers for second. I think that Black Beauty's angelic goodness is supposed to inspire additional pity on the part of the reader, but it completely backfired in my case. I felt sorry for Black Beauty-- it's impossible not to after all of his trials. But I also hated his guts.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 24, 2012 – Shelved
January 24, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Judy (new) - rated it 1 star

Judy I absolutely agree with you!!!!

Sarah Lea Stories Yours is the first review that made me wish there was an unlike button.

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