the Aristotelian and the Anthropomorphic Lens
A dissertation submitted as a course requirement for
MASTER OF ARTS
Dhantal Smita Prabhakar Sadguna
(Reg. No. 16252)
SRI SATHYA SAI INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING
(Deemed to be University)
Department of English Language & Literature
the Aristotelian and the Anthropomorphic Lens
A dissertation submitted as a course requirement for
MASTER OF ARTS
Dhantal Smita Prabhakar Sadguna
(Reg. No. 16252)
SRI SATHYA SAI INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING
(Deemed to be University)
Department of English Language & Literature
And then it h
My Life c
nd so did I.
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He conquered; ens
Freed my future from my sullied p
Department of English Language and Literature
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
(Deemed to be University)
This is to certify that this dissertation, titled Black Beauty Through the Aristotelian
and the Anthropomorphic Lenssubmitted byDhantal SmitaPrabhakarSadguna (Reg.
No. 16252),Department of English Language and Literature, SSSIHL, Anantapur
Campus, is a bonafide record of the original work done under my supervision as part
of thecourse-work required for the degree of Master of Arts in English Language and
Place: Anantapur Dr. Rani P. L.
Date: March 2018 Dissertation Supervisor&
Head, Dept. of English Language & Literature
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
The dissertation titled Black Beauty Through the Aristotelian and the
Anthropomorphic Lenswas carried out by me under the supervision of Dr. Rani P.
L., Associate Professor& Head, Department of English Language and Literature,
Anantapur Campus, as a course requirement for the Degree of Masters in English
Language and Literature, and has not formed the basis for the award of any degree,
diploma or any other such title by this or any other University.
Place: Anantapur Dhantal SmitaPrabhakarSadguna
Date: March 2018 Reg. No. 16252
II M.A. (English Language & Literature)
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Literature: Aesthetic or Didactic? 1-12
Chapter 2 Review of Literature 13-26
Chapter 3 Black Beauty Through the Aristotelian Ethical Lens 27-40
Chapter 4 Black Beauty Through the Anthropomorphic Lens 41-52
Chapter 5 Conclusion 53-58
Works Cited 59-66
y grandfather always told us: God first, duty next, everything else last.
I thank my ever-giving Lord for everything He has ever done for me.
My research would have not moved an inch, if not for the ideas, the
words, and the skills He bestowed on me. I offer this humble endeavour at His Divine Lotus
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my guide Dr. Rani P.L. I have learnt
a lot under her guidance. She has helped me hone my skills, which will be useful not only
academically, but also in my life. It is her patience and faith in my abilities that kept me
motivated to go the extra mile.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Prof. Rajeshwari C. Patel, Director of
the Campus and Dean of Faculty of Economics and Humanities; Dr. T. R. Rajeswari,
Warden of the hostel; Dr. Sharada and Dr. Meera, Deputy Wardens of the hostel, for their
unfailing support and care during my busy research days.
It would be wrong on my part if I do not acknowledge and thank all my department
teachers – Madam Kanaka Durga, Madam Bhargavi, Madam Maitali, Madam Divya, and
the research scholars of our department, who helped me in times of need.
The only people who can make a tough road, a joyous one are friends. I would love
to thank my friends and roommates who have always supported me, and placed strong faith
in me. They always kept my morale high and boosted my self-confidence. Their invisible
contribution to my work is much valuable to me. I would also like to thank my classmates
who were also my partners in this journey. This journey surely would have been incomplete
My family has been my biggest strength throughout my life. The dream of showing
them a research done by me kept me motivated all through. Their silent, but heartfelt prayers
have constantly comforted me, and given me a steely determination to do my very best every
owever old we grow, we all have a child within us. Once in a while
connecting to this child within, helps us remain sane in this chaotic
world, and one of the best ways to do it, is by reading. In the world
of books, we meet many characters: good, bad, stereotypical, etc., and befriend them.
Though mostly fictional, these characters become a part of our lives and help us grow.
From characters we meet as children, (like Alice who gets lost in the wonderland just to
find herself, or Tyrian Lannister, a victim of family politics who later becomes the king-
maker), all teach us something valuable in life. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, is one such
classic which has fascinating characters. And it is intriguing how such a classic has not
been studied extensively. Sewell’s classic story has a strong message to convey, not just
about being kind to horses, but beyond that.
Literature never stands alone; it stands out. It is a concomitant point where various
fields meet, and it is literary criticism that helps us fathom this. The first chapter discusses
various opinions of literary critics from Plato till the ‘ethical turn’ in the recent past with
regard to the didactic nature of literature. Aristotle, though an ancient Greek, proposed
some timeless ideas. He was one of the first aesthetics who did not approve of the didactic
nature of literature, rather laid primary focus on its pleasure principle. However, he dealt
with morals in Philosophy. An attempt is made in this thesis to bring Aristotle’s
philosophical insights and classic literature together.
Even though Anna Sewell did not intend to write Black Beauty specifically for
children, its popularity has made it a children’s classic. However, only a few studies have
been conducted on the text. Chapter Two is a literature review on three aspects: children’s
literature as a vehicle of moral education, studies done on Black Beauty, and
anthropomorphism as a literary device. The existing research on Black Beauty deals with
the text as one on animal welfare, slavery, and gender studies. Though many have
mentioned that Sewell uses anthropomorphism in the text, none of the studies that are
available have expounded on it.
Chapter Three uses the framework of Aristotle’s cardinal virtues and applies it to
the actions of Sewell’s human characters. Chapter Four deals with exploring human
values through the anthropomorphic lens. The fifth and the final chapter acts as a thread
which brings together Aristotle’s ideology of virtues and compares it with the ideas of
Human Values propounded by the contemporary Indian Philosophy of Sri Sathya Sai
Baba, drawing examples from the novel, Black Beauty.
The latest and the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook has been followed
throughout for citations and formatting.
D h a n t a l | 1
Chapter 1 Literature: Aesthetic or Didactic?
ll art is the expression of life in forms of truth and
beauty; it is the written record of man’s spirit, of his
thoughts, emotions, aspirations; it is the history, and
the only history, of the human soul,” writes William J. Long (2). This makes painting,
sculpture, dance, music and literature different art forms. Different art forms use
different mediums of expression; canvas and paints are the mediums for painting, just
like words are for literature.
Literature is one of the oldest forms of art. It is one of those few art forms
which aggroups with other disciplines such as history, psychology, anthropology,
moral studies, and so on. Two distinct elements of any art form are ‘content’ and
‘form’. This is true of literature also. These two elements influence each other, and
decide the genre, the style, and the essence of a piece of artwork, and in particular, of
a literary work. Varied points of view and a plethora of emotions expressed through
meticulously chosen words build the content for literature. The form decided by the
writer is used to fit the content into the genre. Imagination, creativity and aesthetic
language are three essential components in any piece of literature.
Literature, according to Dryden, is not a static, but a dynamic force.
Nationalities, communities, social environments and tastes of people define the
texture of literature. Literature is thus, as critically observed by many, a reflection of
the society and an introspection of individuals. Literature is not merely a subject or a
discipline, but it is a way of life. Literature teaches us to be. As Richard Taylor says:
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. . . a work of literature does not necessarily give us accurate information about
the way life is actually lived…, rather, it causes us to recognise truths about
human existence through the direct presentation of selected experiences.
Instead of telling us about the way people act and feel, it involves us in these
actions and directs our responses to them. (2)
Literature does not only reflect the society but also improves the society. It
helps people preserve their understanding, knowledge and social beliefs, so that
societies and peoples learn from their past; it assists readers to transcend minor and
major life threats by illustrating different situations through the lives of different
characters; it aids better understanding of humans, and sometimes even non-human
psychology; and in some ways, it also facilitates escape from dreary and static
situations through the exciting adventures depicted in a text. Literary critics play a
very crucial role in analysing if literature meets these expectations.
The role of art and that of an art critic are widely different. The function of a
literary critic is different from that of a writer. As D.K. Chopra rightly says, an artist
or a poet creates, whereas, literary critics examines and critiques the work. The origin
of literary criticism as a practice is unknown, but it can be traced as far back as ancient
Greek critics. The Greek populace was largely intellectual; they not only enjoyed the
tragedies of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, but also engaged in intellectual
debates over them. Aristophanes in his play The Frogs, makes Aeschylus, the poet,
ask: “Pray, tell me on what particular ground a poet should claim admiration” (qtd. in
Chopra 1). Aeschylus enquires about the real function of the poet - whether he should
delight the listeners through his ‘inspired songs’ or teach people through his poetry.
D h a n t a l | 3
Euripides replies that art needs to be ‘true’, and the poet’s counsel ‘sound’, and that
he must also help the nation by making men better in some respect. This reply by
Euripides places the poet in the position of a ‘teacher’, one who helps the nation by
morally improving people through his sound counsel.
Plato in his The Republic, Book X, expresses some radical views on art and
poetry. Plato’s focus was on the ‘civic virtue’ at the societal level, and on the
‘realization of truth’ at the individual level. He examined the kind of influence a poet
exerted on the state and its citizens. He also examined poetry from the point of view
of a philosopher and a moralist. Though he believed that poets are inspired beings, he
quashed his personal feelings for the sake of an ideal state. According to Plato, only a
poet who helps to promote ‘civic virtue’ and lead the individual nearer to ‘truth’, can
find a place in his ideal state.
For Plato, the work of an artist “ . . . is no more than an imitation of an
imitation” (qtd. in Chopra 4). The artist or the poet imitates not ‘reality’, but its
‘approximation’. Plato condemns poetry and other arts because they are ‘twice
removed from reality’. For Plato, the poet creates only copies of the copy. It is only
hymns to gods and verses in praise of noble men that are permissible in his ideal state;
All other poems appeal to the lower aspects of man’s nature, thus not making them
ideal for the development of the state.
Aristotle, on the other hand, dissociated art from morality. This marks him as
the first man to formulate the pure aesthetic principle. He was a scientist, and so his
approach was also scientific. Like Plato, Aristotle too considered poetry as a mode of
‘imitation.’ But, unlike Plato, he did not consider poetry to be an exact copy.
According to Aristotle, modes of imitation differ depending on the means they
D h a n t a l | 4
employ, object they imitate and the manner in which they are imitated. For him,
though poetry surely is an imitation of life, it is not its ‘slavish copy’. Poetic truth,
according to Aristotle, is not mere ‘realism’. The poet presents life, but through the
process of his presentation, reveals its universal significance. That is why he says that
the poet's function is not to describe what has happened, but the kind of thing that
might happen. In this way, he draws a distinction between the roles of a historian and
that of a poet.
England, till the end of the seventeenth century, was practically trilingual,
Latin was the language of the clergy, French was the language of the cultured
aristocracy, and English was the language of the common people. Until Chaucer, no
attempt was made to raise the vernacular to the status of a literary language. The
literary output in English was very meagre. Except on religious subjects, nothing
much was written, though the proportion of translated works over original works in
prose was very high. Chaucer, for the first time, made the East Midland dialect, also
called the King’s English, a medium of literary expression.
Many controversies hovered over the critical circle of the time. One of them
originated from the Puritans’ attack of poetry. Stephen Gosson (1554- 1624), a poet
and playwright himself, who subsequently turned a Puritan, wrote a pamphlet entitled,
The School of Abuse. His point of view was wholly moral, and he referred to the actual,
and not the necessary or possible state of poetry. He condemned ancient poetry
because, according to him, it was infected by the ‘blasphemy’ and ‘immorality of
Paganism’. Gosson made an unauthorised dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, a courtier
of Queen Elizabeth and also a famous scholar, poet, and novelist of the age. Sidney,
who in no way approved of the views of Gosson, wrote in reply his Apology for
D h a n t a l | 5
Poetry, which is admittedly the greatest critical work of the Elizabethan period in
English. While defending poetry against Gosson’s allegations, Sidney also gave
poetry a higher moral stance over philosophy and history. He argued that philosophy
preaches without practical examples, whereas, history gives only factual information
about the past without any moral implications. Poetry, on the other hand, is a
combination of both as it instructs by giving practical examples. The function of
poetry, according to Sidney, is ‘to teach’ and ‘to move man to virtuous action through
invention, style and expression’.
The eighteenth century felt the strong influence of the French Revolution, and
there were many social, political, economic changes, all of which were reflected in
the literature of the time. Romanticism caused the shift of focus from the elite and
aristocratic individuals and their lives, to common man and his life. Though the
Romantics focussed on aesthetics much more than explicitly on morals or values, the
shift strengthened the human touch in literature. Wordsworth believed in the common
man; Coleridge believed in the power of imagination, and Keats strongly believed in
the ideology of ‘art for art’s sake’.
Between 1910 and 1930, Modernism as a movement fructified. Various
political, social, economic and religious reasons caused a drastic change in the
ideology of the masses. There were many minor wars and a major World War. These
wars left great physical and psychological marks on people. People questioned God
and also their own existence. All this had an obvious influence on the literature of the
time, and philosophical ideologies like existentialism and absurdism seeped into
literature. T. S. Eliot held that a ‘dissociation of sensibility’ had set into the society
“that entailed a disjunction of various human faculties such as reason and emotion
D h a n t a l | 6
which had previously been integrated within a unified sensibility” (qtd. in Habib 629).
He believed that there was a strong bond between the society and literature which
cannot be broken.
The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an ‘ethical turn’ in literary criticism in general,
in which Liesbeth Korthals Altes noticed three major tendencies:
• Pragmatics and Rhetorical Ethics- Martha Nussbaum, Wayne C Booth
• The Ethics of Alterity- Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida
• Political Approaches to Ethics- Drucilla Cornell, Homi J. Bhabha
Wayne Booth in his The Company We Keep (1998), observes that many literary
critics, evaluate literature ethically. Yet literary theory since the 1940s has usually
been hostile to ethical evaluation (Levine para 1). But this ‘ethical turn’ shaped Moral
Criticism which is a study of intrinsic values or moral principles in literature. John
Wrighton in his article talks about the ideas of the ethical philosophers, Martha
Nussbaum and Emmanuel Levinas, and their idea about the ‘intersections’ between
philosophy and literature for the twentieth century. Philosophy and literature have
always had a very strong bond. According to Hagberg, philosophers have focussed on
the relationship between ‘ethics’ and ‘aesthetics’ and “literature provides examples
that put flesh on the bones of philosophical ideas…” (2).
As Martha Nussbaum argues, in the ‘interhuman moment’, what is vital is “the
ability to see people as human beings, not simply as objects” (qtd. in Wrighton 152).
And she suggests that unfortunately, “we seem to be forgetting…what it is to approach
another person as a soul, rather than as a mere useful instrument” (qtd. in Wrighton
152). There are also other philosophies like Kantian ethics and Utilitarianism which
D h a n t a l | 7
talk about moral duties. Kantian ethics deals with one’s own moral duty, whereas,
utilitarianism is about maximum utility for the majority. Nussbaum casts off both
these philosophies, for according to her, both these isolate ethics from the nature of
the individual. John Wrighton observes that “the subtle brilliance of Nussbaum’s
Aristotelian ethics is that she focusses clearly on the moral actions rather than on the
morality of the agent, while, at the same time, it is the morality of those actions that
in her ethics provides for moral character” (153). Nussbaum herself writes:
To become a person of just character is to develop patterns of desire and
concern that will motivate one, in a wide variety of circumstances, to choose
the just action for its own sake; it is also to develop abilities of perception and
vision that will enable one to discern, in a wide variety of concrete
circumstances, what the just action might be. (qtd. in Wrighton 153)
Moral criticism is not necessarily applicable to only those texts which were
written with intentions to teach morals. There are those texts like Wuthering Heights,
about which critics concluded that a search for values cannot be done. In fact, Robert
Barnard even asserted that the novel is Emily Bronte’s answer to the question of “what
the world would be like without moral codes” (qtd. in Thormählen 638). But
Marianne Thormahlen, in her research, proves that there is, in fact, a moral angle to
Wuthering Heights. Instead of studying the characters as others did, she studied the
elements of plot and action.
Chinese literary criticism is influenced by the work in the West. Zhenzhao Nie
focusses on the ‘individual school of critical theory’. The theory of biological
selection developed by Darwin deals with the physical development of the human
D h a n t a l | 8
kind. But according to Nie, what truly differentiates human from the animal kind is
the ethical selection. And thus, Nie argues that the primary function of art should not
be purely aesthetics but ‘ethical enlightenment’.
John Gardner in his book, On Moral Fiction (1978), reiterates that morality is
the highest purpose of life. According to him, it is not just an arbitrary construct of
society. Though it changes over time, it remains the eternal truth. He attacks
contemporary literature for its lack of morality. Morals form the basic value system
of every individual in a society. Even though personal morals may differ from person
to person, at the social level, there are a few values which act like the unwritten rules
of the society. Mina Balliu writes in her article, “Importance of Moral Values”:
"justification for a better personal life has often led people to lose their moral values,
as this makes them be willing to change them at any time with anything” (138).
Ironically, the wrong notion of ‘better lives’ has become the root cause for the decline
in Human Values.
Religion has generally dictated the basic rules and regulations of any society.
But, a religion focusses more on forms of Godhead than on man. It was Renaissance
Humanism which gave a human touch to different domains like art, religion, and the
way of life in general. It was also during this time that a few inhuman religious
practices were questioned. Even though humanism ‘as a thought’ has been prevalent
from the nineteenth century, the idea of respecting humanistic qualities is not as recent
as the nineteenth century. Literature, according to Bin Xiao, itself began unmistakably
to play the role, or at least was intended to play the role, that religion once had.
D h a n t a l | 9
Right from the ancient Greek scholars till the postmodern critics, people have
believed in the didactic function of literature, i.e., its responsibility ‘to instruct’ as well
as ‘to entertain’. However, there were some critics, like Walter Pater, who spoke about
‘art for art’s sake’, and did not want to attribute instruction to art. Art, for them, was
purely for its delightful aesthetics.
This dissertation attempts to investigate the didactic nature of literature
through the Aristotelian lens. Despite changing times, Aristotle’s ideas are still
respected and considered relevant. Aristotle’s many books earned him a reputation for
brilliance and elegance. Most of his writings are lost, and what remains are the
unpolished and the inelegant, but brilliant, collections of notes. Even though Aristotle
wished art to be purely aesthetic, as a philosopher, he discussed ethics and virtues. On
ethics, there are two closely related collections, The Nicomachean Ethics which
consists of ten books, and the Eudemian Ethics which consists of seven books.
Book One of Nicomachean Ethics begins with: "Every art and every inquiry,
and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this
reason, the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim" (Aristotle
Barnes reminds us that it is important to keep in mind the kind of audience that
Aristotle was addressing. They were all young men of property. Women had their own
distinct place in the society, and older men found what Aristotle spoke about, to be
obvious. The fact that many of his pupils were rich enough not to work, makes some
of his discussions irrelevant to the modern man. In spite of all this, there is still an
enormous amount of his ideas which are pertinent to modern man irrespective of
gender, age, and economic status.
D h a n t a l | 10
Traditionally and theologically, four virtues have been identified and marked
out as the cardinal virtues: prudence, courage, temperance and justice. ‘Cardinal’
derives from the Latin cardo meaning hinge, since they are considered as the very
basic virtues required for a virtuous life. In Plato's Republic, he insisted on these four
virtues. Cicero also, like Plato, limits the list to four virtues. Aristotle, who
philosophised that the function of a human being was to engage in an act of the soul
in accordance with virtue, broadly classified virtues into intellectual and moral
virtues- the intellectual ones acquired through inheritance, and the moral ones through
practice. Aristotle named these cardinal virtues as prudence, justice, temperance and
According to Aristotle, Prudence is a lesser intellectual virtue that functions
as a higher moral virtue. It presupposes other moral virtues, especially temperance.
Prudence, or reasoning, makes one choose the ‘right’ means. These man-made means
are chiefly money, power and freedom. Prudence involves rational principles, or
universals as well as particulars.
Temperance, according to Aristotle, preserves prudence by immunising
judgements. Etymologically, the word, sophrosune (temperance), is taken from two
Greek words, sozein (to preserve) and phronesis (prudence). Aristotle, however,
focusses only on the bodily pleasures and pains, derived especially from taste and
touch. His discussion of temperance relates to the pleasures of food, drink and sex. A
person whose desires are fair and moderate is a temperate person according to
Aristotle. Aristotle also differentiates between a self-controlled man and a temperate
man. According to him, both these categories know what is right and wrong but the
D h a n t a l | 11
difference is, a person who controls himself from doing wrong is different from a
person who never has the thought about it.
Aristotle says that courage is the virtue which is the “mean” of fear. Mean,
according to Aristotle, is not only about the right amount, but also for the right reason.
Being courageous is not about being fearless, it is about being fearful or fearless about
the right things and to the right degree. Aristotle argues that the most fearful thing is
death, and a courageous person does not fear death for a ‘noble cause’. But one must
have fear, the fear of disgrace, which is modesty; the absence of such a fear is
shamelessness. Courage can also be distinguished from acts done for the wrong
reasons. If one risks his life to get away from a bad deed in the past, it cannot be called
courage. If a person is calm in a certain situation unaware of the danger around, he
cannot be called courageous. A person can be called courageous only when he
consciously chooses to face intimidating challenges.
There are two ways to look at Justice. In the broad sense, anything legal is
‘just’ and anything illegal is ‘unjust.’ This is because, it is believed that the legislation
is built on strong values and only people who follow the rules are virtuous. In the
narrow sense, justice is ‘fairness’, which is what Aristotle lays emphasis on. His
concept of fairness concerns money, goods, safety, etc. Using, receiving and
possessing a ‘fair’ share of these is important in Aristotle’s view. Grasping more than
one’s share would be unjust. There are two kinds of justice concerning fairness:
fairness in distribution and in rectification. One should be just while taking or giving
one’s share. It would also be just if one tries to rectify an old unjust deed. Aristotle
also states that one needs to have the clarity between ‘what is it to act unjustly’ and
‘what is it to be unjustly treated’ A just person needs to not only act justly, but also
D h a n t a l | 12
know if he is treated ‘justly’ himself. One who silently bears ‘unjust treatment’ is
unjust towards himself.
This dissertation will look very innovatively at Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty
from the perspective of Aristotle’s cardinal virtues. After reviewing available
literature on children’s literature and morality, on Black Beauty itself, and on
anthropomorphism in Chapter Two, the third chapter, will explore the actions of the
human characters of the novel through the lens of Aristotelian ethics. The chapter will
draw a sharp contrast between the characters who follow human virtues, and the
characters who choose otherwise. Virtues are eternal, and their study is incomplete
without reference to men and their actions. However, what is interesting about this
particular novel is the presence of powerful animal characters who also think and act
with a virtuous frame of ‘mind’. While discussing the anthropomorphic angle, Chapter
Four will bring out this particular aspect of the novel.
D h a n t a l | 13
Chapter 2 Review of Literature
iterature, in general, can be classified based on genre or the age of
the readers. Thus it is that we have fiction, poetry, drama, short-
stories etc., or adult fiction, young adult fiction, or juvenile literature.
Even as early as the fifteenth century, a large mass of writings, often with a moral or
religious message, was targeted specifically at children. Most books recognised today as
classics were published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries known as the
‘Golden Age of Children's Literature’. Professor M. O. Grenby, in his article “The origins
of children’s literature” establishes how books for children increasingly blended pleasure
with preaching, entertainment with instruction. By late eighteenth century, the publishing
industry in Britain had already earmarked children’s literature as a separate and
promising department in itself. However, what children read until then did not seem
specially designed for them. Fables, ballads, fairy tales, or chivalric romances were
published for both adults and children without much of a distinction. Talking about the
books that were published for children until then, Prof. Grenby says:
By today’s standards, these books can seem pretty dry, and they were often very
moralising and pious. But the books were clearly meant to please their readers,
whether with entertaining stories and appealing characters, the pleasant tone of
the writing, or attractive illustrations and eye-catching page layouts and bindings.
All books that are published do not become classics. Whatever the repute of a
book when it is published, the response it gets from readers over ages is what makes it a
classic. A classic, a representation of its times, always stands the test of time. Lasting
D h a n t a l | 14
recognition and a universal appeal are what makes a literary text, a classic. A classic also
integrates themes that are understood by readers with varied backgrounds and variegated
experiences. Classics elicit emotional responses by dealing with themes pertinent to all
peoples in all climes and times. Matthew Arnold provides the Touchstone Method to
relatively and comparatively establish the merit of a book. According to him, a text
should have worthy matter and manner. The content should have high seriousness, and
the manner needs to be ornamental.
As a field of study, children’s books were accepted as literature in the American
Academy only after 1960s. Children’s books were otherwise dealt with seriously only
for Education and Library Studies. The idea of incorporating children’s literature into
academics is not only to explore language through literature, but also to transmit morals.
Much serious critical study has occurred to assess the role of children’s literature and
classics in transmitting morals and basic human values to its readers.
Part One: Morality and Children’s Literature
This is a chronological review of literature that was available on how children’s literature
is an effective tool to transmit morals and values.
That books are a positive force is axiomatic - Eric Kimmel (1970) proposes
exactly this in his study which adopted content analysis, and investigated the general
effects of reading, and ways to overcome prejudices. However, the results were shocking
because it seemed that only 15% of one’s reading influences one’s behavioural changes,
that too, subtly and gradually. The research also highlights the possibility that the reading
skills determine the rate at which morals have an influence on the reader. Kimmel
D h a n t a l | 15
concludes that though the results are positive, the permanency of the effect is yet to be
Donald Biskin and Kenneth Hoskisson (1974) in their article, “Moral
Development Through Children’s Literature”, begin by reinforcing the idea that values
cannot be taught externally; they have to be developed from within. This can be done by
helping children “develop a means of making constructive and beneficial moral
decisions” (152). They quote Piaget and Kohlberg’s theoretical framework for enabling
moral development. They mention how it is important for the teachers to be aware of the
“interaction between children and their environment” (156). Children must experience
their environment because it is the “basic source of knowledge and it provides the conflict
that is necessary for the development of new cognitive structures” (156). Schools provide
the necessary environment for cognitive growth. Children’s literature as a part of school
syllabus encourages intellectual discussions on the text and its characters in the class,
enabling them to understand moral judgements. These discussions create moral
awareness both in the students and teachers.
Virginia Burke Epstein (1986) expounds on the various themes which are dealt
with in children’s literature. She mentions how these books are filled with unresolved
problems, and alternative value systems, and questions the choice of such texts in the
school curriculum itself. For her, moral education is the primary focus as it teaches
“responsible decision-making about moral issues” (68). This approach is contradictory
to the traditional approach of Piaget and Kohlberg, which was later criticised; Feminists,
for example, argue that Kohlberg's theory is male-centred and stereotyped. According to
Virginia, a holistic approach is needed, wherein the Kohlbergian perspective and the
feminist perspective are both blended along with the ability to develop responsible
decision-makers. Such a blend needs active student “involvement in making judgments,
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which leads to excitement about learning and destroys the myth that all knowledge is
absolute, authoritarian and static” (72).
Darcia Narvaez (2002) emphasises the need for “moral literacy” which can be
developed by hearing and reading moral stories, poems, etc. Darcia draws a contrast
between the traditional thinkers and the new educators. According to her, a few claims
by the traditional educators are proven contradictory by the new set of thinkers.
Readers are passive.
Readers are active.
Every reader ‘gets’ the same information
from the text.
Readers use their prior knowledge to
construct meaning from a text.
Readers ‘get’ the information the author
Readers do not necessarily ‘get’ the
information the author intends.
Themes are readily accessible to the
Readers can construct the themes.
Moral messages are just another type of
information in a text.
Moral messages are influenced by the
readers’ skills and moral development.
Carolyn Wicks (2005) reports a research on the trends in didactic children’s literature
from the twentieth century to the present, as influenced by secular educational
philosophy. Her research was limited to ten books (one book from each decade). Society,
culture, religion, gender, family, ecology, and controversial issues such as divorce,
prejudice, violence, and physical intimacy, were the focal points of this study. This study
also examined how secular educational philosophy influences children’s literature.
D h a n t a l | 17
Didacticism has changed over a period of time. This study shows the association between
‘educational philosophy’ and ‘trends in children’s literature’.
Courtney Tyra focusses on how to develop morals in children so that they accept
special children as their peers and help their growth. She justifies the need to use
children’s literature for this, and also identifies the kind of texts to be used. Children
learn to understand the characters in the stories well, and in the process, unconsciously
learn to empathise with others. Literature also gives a platform to discuss various topics
such as incarnation, bullying, death and abuse, which are otherwise difficult to talk about,
with young minds. Literature does it euphemistically. Literature is also powerful because
children often retain and recall the stories they read, and the morals therein. Thus it helps
in the social, as well as the academic growth of children.
Daniel Froid (2016), in his thesis, traces the history from the time when animal
rights became socially and philosophically important, and how they found their place in
literature. His thesis validates the correlation between didactic children’s literature and
early animal rights discourse in Britain and America. He does this by focussing on
Charlotte Smith’s novels and linking them with a few American writers. Smith tried to
reform the “middle-class child-readers” by engaging them in an identifiable discourse
and her observations of nature. The presence of animals, at home or in the woods, helps
the middle-class children to connect. Froid observes how it makes complete sense when
the writers utilise normal, mundane elements of life to refer to morals. He concludes by
saying that to incorporate manners and to teach children in “the complex world of human,
social and political life, didactic writers turned not to an idealized, innocent nature but to
the real and natural complexities of animal life” (48).
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Anna Sewell (1820-1878) was born into a family of Norfolk Quakers. Once
during her school days, while returning home, she had a minor accident which caused an
injury to both her ankles. Because of medical neglect at that time, she lost partially the
functioning of both her legs, making her dependent on her father’s horse cart. Her love
for horses developed because of that. She sometimes assisted her mother, who wrote
verses and stories for children. It was only when she was fifty, that she began writing her
only novel, Black Beauty. This enduringly popular story of a black horse was published
in 1877, just a few months before her death. She did not intend the book to be a part of
children’s literature; in fact, she wrote it in order to give voice to the unfortunate horses
who faced cruelty each day; she intended the horse-handling classes to be her audience.
But the popularity of the book was such that, not only children, but adults also enjoyed
it. Her readers always empathised with horses, especially the city cab-horses.
Black Beauty is an animal autobiography, that of a horse with the same name as
the title. The novel starts with Beauty as a young colt living in a pleasant meadow with
his mother. Their master, Farmer Grey, is a kind man who treats everyone with love and
respect. He takes the entire responsibility of Beauty’s ‘breaking-in’ and does it skilfully.
When Beauty is ready, he sends him to serve Squire Gordon at Birtwick Park. John
Manly, the head coachman, trains James and Joe to become good, honourable coachmen
themselves. Beauty meets Merrylegs and Ginger, who become his life-long friends.
Ginger’s story creates the sub-plot to the main text. Her life and personality are a sharp
contrast to Beauty’s. She is an arrogant horse who bites and kicks. However, her unkind
past justifies her behaviour. Nevertheless, she changes and becomes agreeable in the
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company of Beauty and John. Though Beauty lives a pleasant life, he becomes a witness
to the cruelty faced by other animals.
Unfortunately, because of the mistress’s ill health, the family has to relocate and
the animals are sent to new homes. Beauty and Ginger are sent to Earlshall, which,
compared to Birtwick Park, is grander, but its occupants have smaller hearts. Ginger is
forced to be her old unruly self, and Beauty, who does not know how to be rude, lives a
submissive life. Once, when the family goes to London, York leaves Reuben Smith in-
charge of the place. Smith is a kind-hearted, sensible man who treats his animals well.
However, when he drinks, he loses his senses and acts uncouthly. One unfortunate night,
after finishing his errands, Smith rides Beauty home, drunk and unmindful. He hurts
Beauty to an extent that Beauty falls. This fall leads to Smith’s death and leaves Beauty
incapacitated forever. This marks a turning point in Beauty’s life. Unwilling to keep a
wounded horse, they sell Beauty.
It is now time for Beauty to leave the countryside and go to a city. Jeremiah
Barker, a kind-hearted city cab driver, buys Beauty. Although Beauty is scared of the
rush and chaos in the city, Jerry’s sweet soothing voice keeps him calm. Beauty gets to
witness a different kind of world. He meets new friends and understands the contrast
between life in the city and in the countryside. He comes across different kinds of
cruelties faced by city animals. One day, on duty, he meets Ginger, who was also working
as a cab-horse. But unlike Beauty, her life was harsh on her. She was not like her old self
anymore. Her spirit lost, she was waiting for her hard life to end. This hurt Beauty deeply,
but then, he could do nothing about it.
Jerry’s heath deteriorates because of his hard job and he has to move to the
countryside. Beauty is sold again and from this point onwards, his life worsens. He is no
more a mere witness, but a sufferer himself, to the cruelties. Towards the end, when he
D h a n t a l | 20
feels his life would end, he is gifted with life anew. Ruined completely, Beauty is once
again sent to be sold. As he waits to be tossed further into darkness, Little Willie along
with his grandfather, Mr. Thoroughgood, come along. They buy him, just to give him,
his life back. They feed him plenty of good food and leave him in a meadow to
rejuvenate. Once Beauty is young again, Mr. Thoroughgood takes him to his final home.
This is where the plot takes a full circle. Little Joe from Birtwick Park is the coachman
in his new home. Beauty, who is assured that he will never be sold again, finally feels at
Set against a Victorian backdrop, the novel deals with the issue of the inhumane
treatment of animals during the Victorian period. Black Beauty also addresses several
other social issues like class barriers, slavery, animal rights awareness etc. It is an animal
autobiography, and anthropomorphism is an essential facet of the novel. Even though the
book was a best seller immediately, and thousands of copies were sold, not much critical
thinking has gone into studying this book. One of the possible reasons for this could be
the deceptive simplicity of the language in contrast to the profound ideas embedded in
the work. But one should not fail to remember that simplicity is profundity.
Part Two: Literature on Black Beauty
B. E. March (1984) traces the relationship between human beings and animal killing.
He discusses the views in Aristotle’s fourth-century books History of Animals and
Politics, wherein Aristotle gives Nature the credit for the reasoned speech of human
beings. March, in his study, also consolidates a list of various bills which were passed
for animal welfare and animal rights, in England. He also discusses Darwin’s theory
which challenged much conventional thinking, especially the religious doctrine.
D h a n t a l | 21
Reiterating the ideas of vegetarianism and animal welfare, he makes a reference to Anna
Sewell’s Black Beauty, a book which fought for animals. He concludes by stating that,
“part of our fear is that, in exercising our human mental capacity for control, we diminish
the moral and ethical components of our humanness” (620).
Horst Dolvers (1993) deals with how speech, in the anthropomorphic novels,
further divides animals and humans instead of bringing them closer. Anthony Easthope’s
‘Phantasy’ to Lacan’s ‘the Imaginary’, ‘the Symbolic’, and ‘the Real,’ are blended and
used to analyse the discourse in the text. The article is divided with sub titles dealing with
various ideas of discourses, which are interlinked later to show how discourse adds to
the plot, character and theme. The article concludes by describing the parabolic nature of
Robert Dingley (1997) describes a typical obedient Victorian servant, and
compares him with Beauty, and contrasts him with the ‘alcoholic groom’ Smith. He
furthers the argument by mentioning how human servants are different because they have
a voice to negotiate, whereas Beauty, an animal, does not have that option. In his
comparison between Beauty in Black Beauty and Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin for their
similar qualities of docility and blackness, he also draws similarities on how their careers
begin. Dingley, however, also mentions how unlike Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the subplot of
Black Beauty reverses with no easy comparisons. Sewell uses Ginger’s story as her
subplot which is also a contrast to Beauty's character, and the treatment they both get
during their ‘breaking in.’ Ginger spends most of her life as the passive victim of male
aggression and exploitation.
Dingley also identifies the many objectives Sewell has had to write this book, but
insists that, one of the prominent ones is the elimination of the bearing reins. He, then,
writes about the philanthropist, George Angel, who published the first American edition
D h a n t a l | 22
of Black Beauty. Angel himself wanted someone to do for horses, what Mrs. Stowe had
done for slaves. Dingley concludes by saying how “Black Beauty, conversely, derives
from an inflexible assumption that the subjection and exploitation of horses must, indeed
should, be perpetuated. Uncle Tom's Cabin, to misappropriate one of Blake's infernal
proverbs, is a tyger of wrath; Black Beauty is only a horse of instruction” (250).
Peter Stoneley (1999) deals with slavery and domesticity of men in Black Beauty
and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. According to Stoneley, both the writers were ‘preoccupied with
the difficulties of self-government’, and both the authors had a ‘dealing with Quakerism’
(65). In his parallels between Black Beauty and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Beauty’s blackness
is signified as African; Ginger’s ‘breaking in’ is compared to an ‘interethnic and
incestuous rape’ (66) of a virgin. Stowe, according to Stoneley, was ‘horrified by the
sexual anarchy of slavery’ (67). She, like Sewell, is also horrified by the breakup of the
family. As Beauty notes: “It seems that horses have no relations at least, they never know
each other after they are sold” (Sewell 29). After being mistreated by Skinner, Beauty
learns the ‘truth of sentiment’: “I have heard men say, that seeing is believing; but I
should say that feeling is believing; for much as I had seen before, I never knew till now
the utter misery of a cab horse’s life” (241). Stoneley concludes his article by mentioning
how in the nineteenth century England and America, “representations of black bodies
clearly relate to questions of desire and social control…I used representation of blackness
to show both white middle class women’s position and their fear that desire is a chaotic
and domineering force that corrupts Christian social authority” (72).
Peter Hollindale (2000) begins by comparing Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s
Travels with Black Beauty to show the similarities between the two. Both show the
human world through the eyes of horses. While Swift tries to empower horses, Sewell
depicts their impotence. In one word, they talk about the commodification of living
D h a n t a l | 23
creatures. Hollindale disagrees that Sewell was novel in her idea about propagating
animal welfare. He gives the credit to Quakerism and mentions Sewell’s Quaker
background. He goes ahead and quotes instances and passages from the text which seem
to be voices of the humanitarian Quaker ideology against bearing reins. He also deals
with the “structured parallel between horses and humans” (106) through different
characters like Joe. He mentions how the “evils of alcohol” (108) is yet another
preoccupation in the text. He defends the simplicity of the book and says that though
Black Beauty seems old fashioned, there is much to learn from the text.
Gina Marlene Dorré (2002) aims ‘to promote, regulate, and fix standards for a
feminine aesthetics’. She compares the harnessed and eventually broken body of the
horse to the corseted and bustled woman in the late Victorian England. Dorré expounds
on how horses bore the ‘ideological freight of gender and class’ (160). She later describes
the various crimes and violations committed for the sake of fashion by comparing bearing
reins with tight laced corsets and also spoke about the dress reformations during the
Victorian period. She quotes Susan Chitty to talk about how Sewell wrote Black Beauty
for the ‘double displacement of the self’ and uses Beauty’s body to address issues of
‘physical’ and ‘psychological abjection’ (168). She opines that the discourse used in the
text depicts the unspeakable crimes euphemistically. She shows how in spite of the
simplicity of the book, it is full of inspirational ideas.
Apart from research which directly studies Black Beauty, there are those that
make a reference to it. Susan M. Griffin (2009) writes about Mary Wilkins Freeman’s
short story collection titled, Understudies. She looks at them from a psychological
perspective as they are ‘centrally concerned with the representation of interiority’ (2).
Discussing these stories in the light of narratology, she alludes to Black Beauty.
According to her, “complicating the authenticity of animal speech in Black Beauty is the
D h a n t a l | 24
fact that the book’s empathic argument for the rights of animals was also . . ., an all-but-
transparent brief for the rights of the working classes and of women” (3). Griffin quotes
Katherine Grier who has demonstrated how the genre of animal autobiography was
“entwined with the discourses of pedagogy, parenting, antivivisection, and temperance,
deliberately assimilating animal psychology to that of humans” (3).
Teresa Mangum (2014) states that in fiction, old animals sometimes do use their
own voice. The voices of animal narrators are crafted by their lifelong experience
(usually of suffering). Mangum considers Anna Sewell's Black Beauty as the most
famous of animal narrators in late nineteenth-century fiction, “whose naive critiques of
human behaviour are authorized by inter-connected age and animal identities” (26).
Part Three: Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature
Anthropomorphism is a dominant literary device in Black Beauty. Technically, it
is the attribution of human traits to non-human entities. It is used widely in children’s
literature in order to make moral stories interesting and gripping. It also makes children
conscious of the nature around. Anthropomorphism is also used in other mediums like
animation series and movies. But as the focus of the dissertation is literature, only related
articles are chosen for this literature review.
Sonia Vogl (1982) gives contrary views in her article about anthropomorphism.
Many biologists argue that such literature tends to judge animals by human standards.
Yet, animal stories like Aesop’s fables can also be defended as tales intending to teach
morals to its young readers. Vogl does make an interesting mention of how animal stories
can be categorised based on the degree of anthropomorphism used.
Carolyn L. Burke and Joby G. Copenhaver (2004) enlist some important
functions of literature; for example, it helps to generate questions and new life
D h a n t a l | 25
alternatives, it provides momentary escape from the current situation, it helps to savour
and reflect on one’s experience, and so on. After explaining the process of
anthropomorphism, they trace the development of anthropomorphism in children’s
literature and discuss the trends, topics, and issues which it deals with. Some of them are
morals and responsibilities, power vs. weakness, personal relationships, animal rights,
race & social class, feminist issues, and gay rights. This study proves the advantages of
using animal references in the curriculum. Anthropomorphism creates an ‘emotional
distance’ which allows the readers to identify with the text, but with a safe distance. The
researchers conclude: “The more we place value on supporting learners as independent,
critical, and flexible, the greater the value we will place on literature and its devices”
After giving a brief introduction to what children’s literature is, Elizabeth A.
Dunn (2011) explains the purpose behind the research. The thesis is a literature review
of 120 texts of the genre-animal fiction. The purpose of the research is to answer a few
• What kinds of animals play a major role in the story?
• What anthropomorphic qualities do they exhibit?
• Do they retain any animal behaviours or characteristics?
• Are there any humans in the story? If so, what is their relationship to the animals?
• What personality traits are shown by each type of animal in the story?
• What lesson or value (if any) is taught by the animal characters?
The conclusion is optimistic and she writes that talking animals do help in sending home
a positive message. Traditional or contemporary, animal stories have been beneficial in
teaching young readers about their conduct and moral traits such as kindness, respect,
bravery, and friendship.
D h a n t a l | 26
Nicole E. Larsen (2017) along with his co-researchers conducted an experiment
to scientifically check the effect of animal stories on the morals of children. This research
focussed on pre-school children. Stories with human and non-human characters were
narrated to them and a particular trait of ‘sharing’ was measured before and after the
narration of the story. It was proved that it is human characters and not non-human
characters that teach morals to children. On the contrary, the non-human characters had
a negative effect on the children.
At the end of this nearly exhaustive review of existing literature on three related
areas, namely, morality in children’s literature, researches carried out on Black Beauty,
and the anthropomorphic elements in literature, two aspects seemed important to fill in
the gaps – a pure moral perspective and the anthropomorphic angle which have not been
studied in-depth. Though children’s literature has been critically looked at from the
moral perspective, there seemed much scope to study the same in Anna Sewell’s Black
Beauty. This dissertation intends to add to the existing studies by seeing the human
characters of the novel through the lens of Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle’s cardinal virtues
provide the framework for the first part of this study. Studying morals through
Anthropomorphic elements in the text, forms the second part of this study.
D h a n t a l | 27
Chapter 3 Black Beauty Through the Aristotelian Ethical Lens
. H. Abrams rightly defines a novel as an “extended work of
fiction written in prose” the magnitude of which “permits a
greater variety of characters, greater complication of plot (or
plots), ampler development of milieu, and more sustained exploration of character and
motives” compared to short stories and novellas (252). Poetry needs an intellectual mind;
drama needs a stage; but a novel can be read from anywhere, by any literate person with
minimum world knowledge. Novel as a genre became famous during the Victorian age
because of the rise of the middle class, printing technology, and literacy rate. People had
the money and the skill to read books, whose availability was also on the rise. Novels
ranged from realistic social novels to unreal fantasies. Novels can be studied from
different perspectives; the focus point being themes, characters, discourse, narrative
technique, and so on.
As already mentioned, there are different types of novels: realistic, regional,
historical, nonfiction, bildungsroman, and social. According to Abrams, “the social novel
emphasizes the influence of the social and economic conditions of an era on shaping
characters and determining events, if it also embodies an implicit or explicit thesis
recommending political and social reform, it is often called a sociological novel” (256).
Sewell represents the Victorian era. She shapes the characters based on their region
(country and city), and economic conditions (rich and working class). She implicitly
gives her views on the shady political system by describing a busy election day. Whereas
the entire novel is an explicit expression of reforming the difficult lives of horses. She
D h a n t a l | 28
describes the harsh treatment given to different job horses. Her main argument is against
the bearing-reins which she reinforces many times throughout the novel. Thus, Sewell’s
Black Beauty is not merely a social novel, but actually a sociological novel, which fights
for animal welfare.
The Academic Dictionary of Fiction defines character as “an individual in a
story, play or poem whose personality can be inferred from their actions and dialogues”
and continues to say that “writers may also use physical description of the individual to
give readers clues about a character” (38). Characters are very important in literature, as
they mirror the writer’s thoughts. Aristotle, while talking about Greek Tragedies, placed
it second, only next to plot. But in novels, characters are of prime significance because
the plot, theme, setting, atmosphere, language etc., revolve around the characters. In
order words, characters are important because they create conflicts and build the plot.
Because novel, as a genre, is particularly close to reality, characters need to be real and
wisely chosen. Even in a surrealistic or fantasy novel, the characters need to be
Didactic literature is used to teach life lessons. In order to do this successfully,
writers use characters as their mouthpieces. The themes, social message, political ideas,
etc., are conveyed to the audience through the dialogues and actions of the characters.
Characters can be classified based on the degree of their importance and contribution to
the text as major, minor, and stock characters. E. M. Foster coined new terms to define
characters ‘flat’ (static) and ‘round’ (dynamic) in his Aspects of the Novel. There are two
ways of characterization: direct and indirect. An ancient Greek writer, Theophrastus,
wrote a book titled The Characters, in which he offers direct descriptions of different
characters. His purpose was didactic. He wanted to help young people choose their
D h a n t a l | 29
friends wisely, and thought his character sketches would act like a touchstone for them.
Unlike Theophrastus, other writers may not describe a character’s external appearance,
emotions and thoughts, explicitly. Charles Dickens, for example, never gave a direct
description of his characters, but he portrayed their actions and dialogues and left the
judgement to his audience. Both these methods, direct and indirect, are seen in Anna
Sewell’s novel. She uses the direct method for only few characters like Reuben Smith
and Captain, whom Beauty meets for a limited period. She uses indirect method for those
characters with whom Beauty spends more time, giving scope to develop their character
through their actions (John and Jerry).
Anna Sewell uses both human and non-human characters in her text. There are
around five major human characters: John Manly, James Howard, Joe Green, Reuben
Smith, and Jeremiah Barker; and two major non-human characters: Beauty and Ginger.
The other character might be minor but their roles support the plot directly or indirectly.
For example, Duchess (Beauty’s mother) and Framer Grey’s appearance are limited to
the first few chapters of the novel, but their contribution in grooming Beauty acts as a
strong foundation to Beauty’s temperament throughout. Seedy Sam, in spite of getting
an entire chapter, remains a minor character, because he is not directly involved in Beauty
personal life. He represents the working class who struggle to earn their meagre income,
and in the process ruin their horses by toiling them too hard.
This chapter focusses on the actions of the human characters studied through the
framework of Aristotelian cardinal virtues. The human characters are from both, the
country (Lady Anne) and the city (Mr. Wright), and depicts the way different people treat
horses differently. She not only uses ideal characters, who convey what should be done
(Mrs. Gordon), but also characters who teach what should not be done (Lay W--- of
D h a n t a l | 30
Earlshall). It is through their actions that audience get the message. She does not try to
create a utopian world, she just tries to remind the readers what it is to be humane.
Every human has a set of basic human values which are necessary to live in a
society. Even though defining virtues is relative, philosophers have tried to do so, in order
to list a few which are universal. Different philosophers, like Plato and Cicero have
different perspectives which they expatiate in different ways. Aristotle picks out different
aspects of life and attributes them to the presence or absence of different virtues. He then
condenses and decides on certain virtues which have overlapping acts, for e.g.
Temperance deals with moderate desire for food, drink, and sex. Aristotle also talks about
the Mean theory. A character trait has three degrees: excess, mean, and deficiency.
According to Aristotle, any trait in excess or in deficiency is a vise. Only a balance of
any trait makes it virtuous. Aristotle has spoken about the following spheres of actions
D h a n t a l | 31
ARISTOTLE'S ETHICS: TABLE OF VIRTUES AND VICES
Pleasure and Pain
Lack Of Spirit/
Aristotle (1955). The Ethics of Aristotle: The Nichomachaen Ethics. (rev. ed.) (J. K. Thomson, trans.). New York: Viking.
D h a n t a l | 32
From all that Aristotle has given, the focus of this chapter will be on the four cardinal
virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.
Aristotle discusses Prudence, by describing it as an intellectual rather than a
moral virtue; but also complicates the argument by calling it a lesser intellectual virtue
that functions as a higher moral virtue. It presupposes moral virtues especially
temperance. Prudence aids to take the ‘right’ means, especially, regarding man-made
things like: money, power and freedom. Prudence, thus, involves rationale principles.
In Black Beauty, Squire Gordon, who owns Birtwick Park, is one of the county
magistrates. He and his wife are kind to all, especially the deprived. They help John
Manly and his crippled sister, Nelly, and give them a new life. The Squire feels
strongly about his ideals and morals and does not hesitate to speak veraciously. Farmer
Grey along with the Squire have struggled for nearly twenty years to get rid of the
bearing reins in their area. If any were seen, even Mrs. Gordon would not hesitate to
stop the driver and reason the consequences with him. Once Captain Langley met the
Squire and asked his opinion about his new horses. Being an army personal, he liked
the heads of his horses held high and so kept the bearing reins tight. The Squire
without a pause replied: “I don’t like to see them held up; that takes all the shine out
of it.” Acknowledging his army sentiments, he continues,
…you would not take much credit for your drill if all your men had
their heads tied to a backboard! It might do much harm to the parade,
except to worry and fatigue them, but how would it be in a bayonet
charger against the enemy, when they want the free use of every muscle,
and all their strength thrown forward? I would not give much for their
chance of victory… (Sewell pp. 60-61)
D h a n t a l | 33
He compares this with the situation of the horses, and explains the difficulties the
Once when Joe gets into an argument with a drunk driver who was brutally
hitting his horses, he is asked to give witness in front of the Squire, regarding the
same. Even as a magistrate, the Squire gives a verdict only after deliberating on the
entire truth and thinking prudently. John Manly, too, under guidance of the Squire,
grows up being a prudent man. His judgement is valued and his reason is
unquestionable. He does not shy away from speaking his mind and believes in helping
the needy. He is meticulous and does not do anything with thinking twice and he
expects the same from all. Once when Beauty falls sick because of Joe’s ignorance,
Manly is very upset with him. Because, according to Manly, “ignorance is the worst
thing in the world, next only to wickedness…and does the most mischief…” (97).
He then quotes many examples wherein mishaps have occurred because of ignorance.
It is because both, the Squire and Manly, are prudent, things like money and power
seem insignificant to them. They are kind and treat everyone, including the mute
animals with respect. They give them their freedom and rest, but also did not pamper
them to laziness. They have the skill to balance between love and law, which is
difficult to acquire.
Aristotle also talks about prudence which shapes legislative wisdom and
politics. Though not discussed in detail, the lack of prudence in politics can be
illustrated by what Jerry thinks about elections. When Polly asks Jerry whether he
would vote for the gentleman, he refuses to vote at all. With experience he has realized
that the leaders have always been blind to the needs of the working class. And in
response to Harry’s delusion about Liberty, he says:
D h a n t a l | 34
My boy, Liberty does not come from colours, they only show party, and
all the liberty you can get out of them is liberty to get drunk at other
people’s expense, liberty to ride to the poll in a dirty old cab, liberty to
abuse anyone that does not wear you only half-understand- that’s your
liberty. (Sewell 215)
Jerry thinks elections is a serious thing and everybody should get to vote according to
his conscience. But, the leaders bribe people with liquor and money to win elections.
Unfortunately, there are not many prudent men in the society. This causes many
problems in the society like corruption, class barriers, economic discrepancy, etc.
Temperance, according to Aristotle, preserves prudence by immunising
judgements. Unlike Plato who includes thoughts and emotions, Aristotle focuses only
on the bodily pleasures and pains, derived especially by taste and touch. Therefore, it
relates to the pleasures of food, drink and sex. He uses his mean theory specially to
explain Temperance. Even though these three are universal, depending on the kind of
and the degree to which a person indulgences in these acts, a person can be called as
self-indulgent or Temperate. A person whose desires are fair and moderate is a
temperate person according to Aristotle.
Sewell’s focus in the text is on the problem of drinking, because this affects
the lives of the horses. There are many characters in the text who are against drinking;
and the ones who are in favour of it, through their actions prove against it. The most
obvious example is Mr. Reuben Smith, who is directly described in Chapter 25. He
works at Earlshall Park. He is intelligent and hard working. He is a first-class driver,
as Beauty describes he “could take a four-in-hand or a tandem as easily as a pair”
(Sewell 125). Because of working for two years with a veterinary surgeon, he can also
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doctor the horses to some extent. Everybody, man and horse, liked him very much.
His drinking problem is the sole reason why he is not the head coachman. He was
once already fired for being drunk on duty, because of which his wife and six children
had nowhere to go. With the recommendation of York, he is given his job back on the
condition that he will not drink. He keeps his word for several months. York is so
happy with him and his work, that he makes Reuben in-charge in his absence. But one
unfortunate night, while returning to Earlshall Park after an errand, he meets his
friends and overlooks the promise he once made. He drinks, much more than he can
handle, and it is Beauty and Susan (Reuben’s wife) who face the consequences. He
rides Beauty in an uncouth fashion and cuts him hard with his whip many a times
unnecessarily. He is too drunk to even notice that one of Beauty’s shoe is off and
continues to ride on a stony road. Unable to tolerate the pain caused by the whipping
and jabbing stones, Beauty stumbles and falls. Reuben flies and hits the ground hard
and dies. Beauty’s forelegs are broken and he is spoiled forever for no fault of his.
Susan and the children are forces to leave their comfortable home once again to live
in the unpleasant Union House. Drinking becomes the tragic flaw of Smith. He has a
good heart, a strong character; he is a sound man. But then he not only ruins his own
life but also that of others around him. He is very important for the plot development,
as this tragic episode marks a turning point in Beauty’s life. Sewell sends a strong
social message through his character. She illustrates how no matter how good a person
is, if he lacks this particular virtue, he will be ruined for life.
Aristotle reiterates what is temperance, when he differentiates between a self-
controlled man and a temperate man. According to him, both these categories know
what is right and wrong. The difference lies in controlling from doing wrong, and not
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having the though at all. John Manly being prudent always choses wisely for himself.
He never did anything in excess. He never drinks and advises many against it.
Jeremiah Barker, on the other hand, is a man who has been sober for three years. After
realizing the ill-consequences, with the help of his wife and strong determination, he
successfully left the habit. He survived from a deadly disorder called bronchitis, only
because he did not drink. Through the character of Jerry Barker, Sewell shows the
negative side of drinking and also assures a good future if one chooses to do right.
This makes Jerry a strong willed person and John Manly, a temperate man.
Aristotle says that courage is the virtue which is the “mean” of fear. Mean,
according to Aristotle, is not only about the right amount, but also the right reason.
Being courageous is not about being fearless, it is about being fearful or fearless about
the rights things and to the right degree. Aristotle argues that the most fearful thing is
death, and a courageous person does not fear death for a ‘noble cause.’ But one must
fear disgrace, that is, modesty; and the absence of such a fear is shamelessness.
Captain’s master, a cavalry officer, faces death with all the courage in heart. He dies
a martyr’s death.
Once when James Howard took the Master and Mistress to their friends’, the
horses were taken to a stable to eat and take rest. Because one careless man called
Dick who took his pipe to the hay room; there was a great fire. An ostler tried to get
the horses out, seeing an unknown man, the horses were too frightened to go with him.
As the horses were not ready to budge, he left them and fled. It was then that James
comes in and talks soothingly to Beauty and ties a handkerchief around his eyes and
takes him out gently. After leaving Beauty with another ostler, he runs back into the
fire to save Ginger. It was only moments before the shelter collapses that James comes
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out with Ginger. This makes James, who is just twenty years, a courageous young
man. He did not think about his life but walked through the blazing fire to save two
horses. This proves that there are many unsung heroes who risk their lives and face
danger. And the noblest ones are the ones, who do it of the sake of others.
There are two ways to look at Justice in two ways. In the broad sense, anything
legal is ‘just’ and illegal is ‘unjust.’ This is because, it was believed that the legislation
was built on strong values and only people who followed the rules were virtuous. In
the narrow sense, justice is ‘fairness’, which was Aristotle’s focus then, and also the
focus here. This concept of fairness is about the manmade concepts such as money,
goods, safety, etc. It is fair only if one uses, takes, demands for the rightful share.
Grasping more than one’s share would be unjust. There are two kinds of justice
concerning fairness: in distribution and in rectification. Farmer Grey treated everyone
the way they should be. He was very kind to his animals and treated them like his own
kin. He, himself, wanted to be the one breaking in Beauty so that no body spoils the
horse, and so he did. He was very careful and did everything step by step. He also sent
Beauty to a friend’s farm near the rails so that Beauty gets used to the sound of the
trains. He did justice in the process by making Beauty a steady, fearless horse. But
when it comes to injustice, he is strict. A ploughboy called Dick sometimes came into
the field to pluck blackberries. This boy would sometimes hit the horses with stones.
When farmer Grey caught him, he punched him in his face and taught him right from
wrong. He was fair in his treatment of Beauty and Dick and nobody can question him
One should be just while taking or giving one’s share. It would also be just if
one tries to rectify an unjust deed. Beauty was once sold to a corn dealer. A foreman
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who rode Beauty, would overload the cart because he believed, “‘Tis no use going
twice when once will do…” (Sewell 236). One day with an overloaded cart, Jakes
took Beauty for work. And like others he liked the bearing reins high. It was but
obvious that this did not allow Beauty to do justice to his work. But thinking Beauty
to be lazy, Jakes continuously whips him hard as they go up. That is when a lady
passes and stops Jakes. She suggests Jake to loosen the bearing reins, if not get rid of
them. After a long argument Jakes agrees to give it a try, and Beauty gets the freedom
to move his head the way he wants. When the lady’s words prove right, Jakes decides
to loosen the bearing reins at least while climbing steep hills. The Lady sees that
Beauty suffers in an unjust manner and tries to rectify it by advising Jakes to do the
Squire Gordon and Mrs. Gordon try to rectify the unjust done by nature/ fate
to John and his sister. They not only provide them with temporary help but teach them
how to be independent and strong. It is because of them that the children do not die of
hunger and loneliness. But rather grow up into independent, prudent, wise individuals
who are capable of training others.
Willie and his grandfather, Mr. Thoroughgood, are like angels to the spoilt
horses. They go around a horse fair and choose young horses who become old not
because of time but because of the unjust done to them. They appear in the text only
for some time, but the lesson they teach is enormous. Both the young lad along with
his aging grandfather try to spend their money, energy and time for total strangers and
bless them with a new life.
Aristotle also states that one needs to have the clarity between ‘what is to act
unjustly?’ and ‘what is to be unjustly treated?’ John Manly tells Joe Green that, “with
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cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it…”
(101). Justice is an intermediate between acting unjustly and being unjustly treated.
John Manly is aware about both the above mentioned points. He is one of the
characters who demonstrates how to be a virtues person in its absolute sense.
Man’s true nature is to be humane; and not only to his kind, but to all. The aim
of applying Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues through the actions of human characters, is
to help the readers realize that man is forgetting to be in synchrony with his true nature.
This chapter is just a reminder, to what Sewell tried to do during her time; she helped
humans be more humane. One of the aims of Literature is also to do the same. It is
only then, that the readers would understand the plight of other beings. The principle
difference between man and animal is not their biological differences, but the morals
and virtues they are gifted with. Man needs to understand this and try to come as close
as possible to its true self. Man needs something concrete to evaluate himself, as
Immanuel Kant says, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
Similarly, Aristotle’s cardinal virtues could also be a touchstone for introspection.
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Chapter 4 Black Beauty Through the Anthropomorphic Lens
xford English Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as “treating a
god, animal, or object as if they were human” (20). It is
personification extended. While personification grants a human
attribute to a non-living entity, anthropomorphism is making the non-human entity
behave like a human. Anthropomorphism can range from something as simple as giving
a non-human object the ability to talk, to making it behave completely like a human, that
is, wearing clothes, living in a house, driving, going to school or office, playing sports,
and so on. Anthropomorphism is generally used in children’s literature, children’s
animation series, and movies. It is not a new concept; the Western literature has Aesop’s
Fables and the Eastern has Panchatantra, which use animals with human traits in their
Anthropomorphism is beneficial for both, the writer and the reader. It allows a
writer to use his imagination to the fullest, and helps him take his readers wherever he
wishes. If the writer understands the power of anthropomorphism in the right spirit, he
can create and change memories for many children. Likewise, animal stories help
children admire and appreciate the world. They also get an opportunity to discuss serious
topics, such as death, politics, social evils, etc., with their compeers and elders
euphemistically. Many writers and educationists believe that values imparted through
animal stories help children learn life lessons, and also develop their moral character.
Anna Sewell chooses horses as her subject because of her intimate connection
with them from her childhood. In Black Beauty, unlike in many animal fiction texts, the
horses are not used as ‘symbolic humans’, but as ‘animal-selves’. Different from
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Orwell’s Animal Farm, the Sewell's animals do not replace humans; they are used as
horses themselves. Even though horses are considered dumb and unintelligent by many,
Sewell proves that they do understand everything and reciprocate accordingly. She does
this by giving them a few human traits such as thinking, talking, feeling, and responding.
Except for talking, the other traits are natural to the horses. Anthropomorphism and
didacticism meet in Sewell’s writing. It is by describing the lives of these horses from
their perspective that Sewell fights against the cruel treatment they receive. The readers
not only sympathise with the horses, but also learn moral and social lessons through
them. This chapter focusses on anthropomorphism, and extracts human values reflected
through the anthropomorphic elements in the text.
The most obvious thing that makes the novel an anthropomorphic one is that it is
an ‘animal autobiography’. It is Beauty who plays the role of the narrator throughout the
book. The novel traces the journey of Beauty’s life from his ‘colt-hood’ till his old age,
making it a bildungsroman. The readers understand the world through Beauty’s eyes, and
not Beauty through the world’s eyes. Beauty is born on Farmer Grey’s farm and lives
with his mother till he becomes independent. Because of a skilled ‘breaking-in’, and his
mother’s training, Beauty grows up into being a thoughtful and temperate horse. After
going through the flow of life, Beauty learns about trust and betrayal. Though it is
Beauty’s autobiography, the readers connect with the lives of many other creatures as
The most interesting aspect of this anthropomorphic novel is that though the
horses are given the ability to speak, it is limited because it is only the readers who can
hear Beauty and the other horses; none of the other human characters in the text can hear
them. This does not mean that the horses do not communicate with the human characters
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at all. They communicate using body gestures and actions. When Beauty, for example,
wants to say goodbye to Farmer Grey, he puts his nose into Farmer Grey’s hands. Mr.
Grey understands this gesture and pats Beauty gently. In Chapter 12, when the Squire,
John and Beauty are on their way home on a stormy night, Beauty stops at the bridge and
is not ready to move, in spite of being goaded by Squire Gordon. He has a strong feeling
that the bridge is not safe, and hence does not budge from his place. This is his way of
saying that the bridge is not safe. The Squire soon realises that Beauty is not being
stubborn or scared; he is just trying to save them. The Squire reflects:
… God had given men reason by which they could find out things for themselves;
but He had given animals knowledge which did not depend on reason, much more
prompt and perfect in its way, by which they had often saved the lives of men.
By saving people’s lives, Beauty proves that he can sense a tragedy, act as
required, and be stubborn even if compelled. He saves Mrs. Gordon and, later, Lady
Anne. He runs for their lives as if his own life is in danger. He understands the situation
both the times, and knows that if he runs any slower, the life of the women would be in
danger. When Mrs. Gordon is in urgent need of medical attention, John takes Beauty to
fetch the doctor. Because of the unavailability of any other horse, Beauty has to bring the
doctor back without wasting any time, or availing any rest. He bolts back without
worrying about himself. Because of the strain, and Joe’s ignorance, he also falls sick.
Little Joe lacks experience with horses; he does not know that though Beauty’s body is
hot, he needs to be covered with a blanket. Joe also gives him cool water instead of warm,
thinking that it will be soothing for Beauty. By morning, Beauty’s condition becomes so
bad that he seems to be on the verge of dying.
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Later in the novel, Lady Anne wants to try riding Lizzy, who is popular with her
brothers. But little did she know that Lizzy is a nervous horse and can go out of control
easily. Lord Blantyre and Lady Anne go to Dr. Ashley's to deliver Lady Harriet's
message. Lady Anne manages Lizzy pretty well on the ride. As the Lord goes in to meet
the doctor, Lady Anne stays back with the horses. She is still mounted on Lizzy, with
Black Beauty hooked to the gate:
Just then some cart horses and several young colts came trotting out in a very
disorderly manner, whilst a boy behind was cracking a great whip. The colts were
wild and frolicsome, and one of them bolted across the road and blundered up
against Lizzy's hind legs. Whether it was the stupid colt, or the loud cracking of
the whip, or both together, I cannot say; but she gave a violent kick and dashed
off into a headlong gallop. It was so sudden, that Lady Anne was nearly unseated,
but soon recovered herself. (Sewell 119)
Beauty helps again. He gives “a loud, shrill neigh for help” (Sewell 119), paws
the ground impatiently, and tries to loosen his rein by tossing his head. Lord Blantyre
hastens out hearing him neighing. No sooner did he jump over the saddle, did Beauty
bolt ahead to Lady Anne’s rescue. The Lord understands that Beauty is as eager as he is,
and gives him a loose rein. They spot Lady Anne and try to reach her before any mishap
occurs. But because of Lizzy’s lightning speed and the rough terrain, Lady Anne has a
great fall and becomes unconscious. Lord Blantyre and Beauty are next to her in no time.
Some local men come to help, and Beauty takes one of them to the doctor’s and to the
Hall to send help. Two days later, Lord Blantyre visits Beauty and reports to Lord George
that he knew Beauty was aware of the situation just as much as the Lord himself. He
says, "I could not have held him in if I would. … she ought never to ride any other horse”
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(Sewell 124). On both the occasions, Beauty senses that the women’s lives are in danger,
and he needs to act immediately. He does what he does the best, he runs. He runs not for
his life, but for theirs.
Money, power, and freedom are all associated more with men than with horses
directly. Horses do not bother about whether they earn money, or wield power in the
world like the humans do. Once at Birtwick Park, Miss Jessie and Miss Flora are visited
by their cousins. It is Merrylegs’ job to help them learn horse riding. He, later recalls to
Beauty proudly that Master trusted him like an old friend for this job, and therefore, he
would do his best. He not only understands the master’s words, but also means to keep
his master’s promise. He calls himself their ‘riding-master’. He trots slowly when the
children seem scared, and jogs fast again when they are ready. But the boys are
troublesome. According to Merrylegs, they need to be ‘broken-in’ just like young colts,
and be taught the right things. After the girls practised for two hours with Merrylegs, the
boys think it is their rightful turn. They use hazel-sticks for riding whips and hit
Merrylegs too hard. They go on like this for about an hour. The children do not
understand that horses and ponies also get tired, and that they cannot go on like a ‘steam-
engine’ for hours together. He tries hinting to them by halting twice or thrice, but the
boys lay their canes too hard on Merrylegs so that he continues. In order to teach them a
lesson he “lay on his hind legs” and lets one of his riders “slip off from behind” (Sewell
47). He had no intentions to hurt them, but just wanted to teach them a lesson. Horses,
unlike men, are not stubborn to want things as and when they fancy; Merrylegs just lets
him slip off rather than fling him down. Does one sense the kind of compassion and
consideration in Merrylegs, that one expects out of humans? Merrylegs, though is hurt
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and tired, had his wits about him. He first gives a hint, but when the boy does not
understand it, he just slides him down gently.
The ‘animal-selves’ exude a lot of sympathy, rather empathy, for not just their
own kind, but also for all other creatures they associate with. Once when the horses are
left in the orchard, and they have a bitter-sweet talk about their experiences. Sir Oliver
describes the cruelty with which his long, beautiful tail was cut through flesh and bone.
They also discuss how humans cut off the tails of dogs to make them look plucky, and
shear up the tender ears of few new-born pups to make them look sharp, and all this for
nothing but fashion. “… fashion is one of the most wicked things in the world,”
comments Sir Oliver (Sewell 52). The horses then discuss how the humans lack the
common knowledge that the tail is given to shoo away the flies from their hind legs. And
the soft covering over the ears is for protection from dust and injury. After such a horrid
discussion about the ill-will of humans, Merrylegs observes that it would be unfair to talk
against humans in a place where John and James take such good care of them. A sense
of integrity and loyalty is evidenced in such a comment.
Ginger’s cruel past depicts that even horses have a tender heart. If their breaking
in is not taken good care of, then they can be spoiled for life. Some critics have compared
Ginger’s ‘breaking in’ to the rape of a virgin. Men run and grab her from different sides
and force her into wearing the bid and the saddle. They force themselves onto her in order
to ride her. It is mainly because of the way the men treat her in her early years that she
becomes crude and unkind later in her life. She does change positively after coming to
Birtwick Park, when John and James treat her with tender love, instead of roughness and
hatred. Just like a child transforms with love and affection, so does she because of the
‘Birtwick balls’. John feels that a timely serving of the Birtwick horse-balls would treat
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almost any “vicious horse.” These balls, he says, “were made up of patience and
gentleness, firmness and petting: one pound of each to be mixed with half a pint of
common sense, and given to the horse every day” (Sewell 45). Ginger forgives the
humans for their behaviour, after meeting the kind John and James. This makes her better
than humans, for it is easy to take revenge, but very difficult to forgive. Unfortunately,
she is betrayed again. When Beauty and Ginger are taken to Earlshall, they are forced to
wear bearing reins for the sake of fashion. Fortunately, she has not forgotten to ‘give
back’ when necessary, which is what she does. Once when the Lady asks York to further
tighten the bearing-rein, she revolts and kicks York. After the incident with York, Lord
George rides Ginger, as she has tall legs and hot blood. He enters a race without training
her. They do win, but because of no training and sharp whippings, by the end of the race,
Ginger is ruined. She joins Beauty, who is already in the meadow because of Smith.
Some of her discussions with Beauty are very sharp thoughts; she tells him, “… here we
are, ruined in the prime of our youth and strength - you by a drunkard, and I by a fool; it
is very hard” (Sewell 135). It is the intemperance of men which has brought their disaster.
The text is also about Ginger’s transformation. Ginger's life is one of the saddest
in the text. She is ruined not once, but many times through the course of her life. When
Beauty meets her on London streets after a few years, he is dumbfounded. She is nothing
like what she was when he last saw her, but how he wishes it was so. He describes her in
the following words:
It was Ginger! But how changed! The beautifully arched and glossy neck was now
straight, lank, and fallen in; the clean, straight legs and delicate fetlocks were
swollen; the joints were grown out of shape with hard work; the face that was once
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so full of spirit and life was now full of suffering; and I could tell by the heaving
of her sides and by her frequent cough how bad her breath was. (Sewell 207)
Over the years, she changes hands and each time she is treated worse than before.
After long separation, when Beauty meets Ginger, she is with a man who lends horses
for money. The man who hires her, tries to get the worth of his money. The lives of the
city-cab horses are tough. Those who do not have masters like Jerry, have to work seven
days a week without rest and proper care. Ginger is not as lucky as Beauty, as she meets
only cruel men. When Beauty reminds her of how she used to stand up against ill-use,
she just sighs and tells him that men are strong and if they are cruel, there is nothing a
horse can do except bear it all silently. She is so broken that she wishes she were dead.
After a few days, Beauty sees a cart with a dead horse and this is what he says:
The head hung out of the cart-tail, the lifeless tongue was slowly dropping blood;
and the sunken eyes! - but I can't speak of them, the sight was too dreadful. It was
a chestnut horse with a long, thin neck. I saw a white streak down the forehead. I
believe it was Ginger; I hope it was, for then her troubles would be over. Oh! If
men were more merciful they would shoot us before we come to such misery.
Her death is one of the strongest messages. In the beginning, she is described as
a light-hearted, strong, dynamic, pretty, high-bred horse; but when she dies, she is just
another dejected, soulless, damaged city cab-horse. It is because of man's greed and
insensitivity that so many horses like Ginger have been ruined to death. This condition
of the horses is pertinent to the age in which Sewell wrote, and she wants to highlight it
in a very forceful manner.
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Captain, Beauty’s partner at Jerry’s, is ‘broken in’ and trained to be a war horse.
He describes his early days with much enthusiasm. He loves his daily schedule, and the
affection he receives from his master, a cavalry officer. It is only when they are being
transported to a new land via sea, that he feels the difference. The journey and the new
land are not pleasant. It is a real war field where humans and horses lie dead at every
step. Captain has no fear because he has full faith in his master. This shows the intensity
with which he has surrendered to his master. He knows what happens during war. He
knows also that the others who have come with him have met with their ends. But he
believes he will not die, because he has his master to guide him. But on an unfortunate
day, the master dies a martyr’s death, and Captain is left mid-field confused and
bewildered. He wants to loyally stay on with his master. But he is taken ahead forcibly
and taken over by some other officer who has lost his horse. When Beauty asks him if he
knows why humans fight wars, Captain says in all his innocence: "No…that is more than
a horse can understand, but the enemy must have been awfully wicked people if it was
right to go all that way over the sea on purpose to kill them" (Sewell 176). Even though
a mere horse, Captain tells Beauty something profound in a very innocent statement. He
believes that war cannot be fought for futile reasons; there needs to be a genuine and
concrete reason to justify something as massively destructive as the war.
Anna Sewell touches a raw nerve when she talks about familial connections
amongst animals. In the story, horses too have families and when they are separated,
none of them gets to know about the others or their lives. It is only when Beauty is sold
to the Squire that he comes to know that Rob Roy, who dies during the hunt, is his
brother. Beauty ruminates, “it seems that horses have no relations; at least, they never
know each other after they are sold” (Sewell 29). Beauty loves his mother the most and
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has to part with her just because of ‘human needs.’ Duchess, Beauty’s mother, knows
that Rob Roy is her son, but can neither stop the hunt nor cry her heart out when he dies.
She just tells Beauty that “she had known that horse for years… a good bold horse with
no vice in him” (Sewell 16). The only thing she can do is to stay away from that part of
the field. She can never forget the pain, but has to continue to work for the masters whose
fanciful pastime of hunting is the reason behind his death. Farmer Grey is a good man.
He loves and respects his animals and will not let any kind of harm come to them. But
he also never attempts to put an end to such torturous practices in his farm, wherein, a
number of hounds and men mount on horses chase and kill a creature like a rabbit or a
The horses, too, make friends for life. The bond amongst Beauty, Merrylegs, and
Ginger is very strong and remains so throughout. Even though Beauty does not meet
Merrylegs after their parting, he remembers him always. Once he sees a butcher boy
cutting into a little grey pony which had to carry a heavy load uphill. He wonders if it is
Merrylegs. But soon remembers that when the Squire gave Merrylegs to Mr. Bloomfield,
it was on the condition that he was not to be sold. In fact, the Squire asks him, when the
time comes, to shoot him, but not to sell him. Beauty, nevertheless, feels bad for the
pony. Even when Ginger dies, Beauty feels relieved, as she does not have to suffer a
horrendous life any longer. Animals understand, sympathise, and wish only good for
each other. Even though Ginger had an awful life, she wishes and expresses her happiness
for Beauty. That is true friendship. They know how to maintain it, in spite of being away
from each other.
This chapter does not focus on looking at the horses as a symbol of something
else like slavery or the so-called weaker, marginalized gender. That also would show
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how humans cannot think beyond themselves. Though the novel is about the horses,
many would want to look at it like as an allegory. But it is not. It is simple and is simply
about the horses and their troubles. Why change that? Sewell meant it to be that way
anyways. Though the animals do not symbolise humans, they surely have a lot to teach
humans. Humans need to understand the strong moral and social messages Sewell wishes
to convey. It is not just the cruelty of the men which needs to change. It is also about how
humans need to learn to think and live simple. It is the simplicity and humble nature of
the horses which should also be inspirational. Humans complicate their lives and in the
process also that of others. Horses are not ambitious, vicious or cruel. They are just
themselves, and it is humans who complicate their lives for selfish reasons.
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Chapter 5 Conclusion
ewell wrote in Victorian England. Her world was very different from
the contemporary world. The developments in science and technology
have advanced the standards of living since then. The life style and
mind-set of people have changed. But unfortunately, it seems like the more the world has
developed scientifically, the narrower people’s vision has become. As and when his
vision broadens, it should encompass not only his kind, but all creatures of God. This can
be achieved through education. But secular education which provides worldly knowledge
might be inadequate to accomplish this task. Moral Education is necessary to meet this
goal. Morals inculcated at a young age help to produce ideal citizens for the future. Thus,
true education makes a person equipped not only with secular information, but also with
Philosophers and spiritual leaders, from the east and the west alike, have laid
emphasis on morality for a healthy society; its importance in human life cannot be
underrated. This concluding chapter will bring together Aristotle’s ethics from the
ancient Greek times, and the human values propagated by the contemporary spiritual
philosophy of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The attempt is to bring on stage prudence, justice,
temperance and courage that Aristotle considered of prime importance for a healthy
society, with truth, righteousness, peace, love and non-violence that the Sathya Sai
philosophy of modern times preaches for a wholesome personality.
Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty reflects the Aristotelian cardinal values as discussed
in Chapter Three and Chapter Four. A Greek moral framework applied to an English
Victorian novel, fitting in well with a contemporary value theory- this is the cycle present
in this research which aims to re-establish the timelessness of ethics and morals. The
novelty of this study is also exactly that. This evidences unambiguously the universality
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of human values, their relevance regardless of place and time. That it is possible to use a
modern framework of values also to evaluate the same work, proves the eternal-ness of
values. This text in addition, not only reflects ‘human’ values, but also ‘non-human’
values through its animal characters.
Once when Beauty was playing rough with his colt-friends and ‘there was a great
deal of kicking’, his mother gives him an advice that Beauty remembers all his life:
You have been well bred and well born; your father has a great name in these
parts, and your grandfather twice won the Cup at the Newmarket races; your
grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you
have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and
never learn bad ways. Do your work with a good will; lift up your feet well when
you trot, and never bite or kick even in play. (Sewell 10)
Duchess teaches Beauty to have respect for his noble birth, to keep up the name his
ancestors had made, to work efficiently, to nurture a gentle sweet temper, to be never ill-
tempered or violent. Beauty remembers his mother’s advice all his life, and remains a
horse with a gentle temperament at all times. The import of the advice is only one aspect
of value orientation. The second important aspect is that the moral counsel was given
when Beauty was a mere colt, and it stayed with him lifelong. Did Sewell unconsciously
prove that a moral influence on children at a tender age will have a lasting impact? Thus,
this angle to the story proves the effectiveness of children’s literature as vehicles of moral
In the present era, Education in Human Values, promoted by Sri Sathya Sai Baba,
a modern philosopher, focusses on education that leads to transformation in individuals.
He propagates five fundamental Human Values: Truth, Righteous Conduct, Peace, Love
D h a n t a l | 55
and Non-Violence. A conglomeration of these five values makes man an ideal human
being. Other values such as compassion, fear of evil, forbearance, serenity, honesty, and
responsibility can be classified as the sub-values that go with the main five. According
to Sri Sathya Sai Baba, “cultivation of Human Values alone is education. Whoever
. . . practises these values and propagates them with zeal and sincerity, can alone be
described as a truly educated person” (qtd. in Burrows 19).
Truth is considered as the highest of the human values. Have we not heard the
proverb ‘Honesty is the best policy’? However, on deeper analysis, it is obvious that
choosing the path of truth is only simple prudence. Aristotelian philosophy places
prudence on top of the rung; Sathya Sai philosophy places truth at the top. To a
discerning mind it is obvious that the choice of truth comes only with the exercise of
wisdom. Prudence, according to Aristotle is a lesser intellectual virtue and a higher moral
virtue. Truth, however, is associated with the ‘intellectual domain’ of human personality.
The characters of the novel, like John Manly and Squire Gordon, who have displayed
traces of prudent behaviour are also the ones who lead honest lives.
Truth forms the foundation for righteous conduct. The Sanskrit equivalent of
‘righteousness’ is Dharma derived from its root Dhri meaning, ‘to sustain’. Therefore,
Dharma or right conduct is that which sustains the world. Sri Sathya Sai Baba defines
Dharma as ‘that which sustains, saves and sanctifies’. Squire Gordon, in this sense, is a
righteous man. He stands up for what is right. He not only does his own duty, but also
stops and questions injustice. One who is conscious of right conduct will exhibit justice
and fairness. The Squire simply believes in ‘fair’ treatment to the horses. A truly dharmic
person will extend his sense of right-ness to not just his fellow humans, but also to all
creatures in creation. Gordon struggles to get rid of the ‘bearing reins’ in his area for
D h a n t a l | 56
twenty long years. He takes upon himself persistent efforts to ease the plight of the dumb
creatures. The universal moral law states in Biblical terms: "Do unto others what you
wish others to do unto you." In ancient Greece or in modern India, this dictum holds good
with the same implication then and now.
Sathya Sai Baba says about Love:
Love is life. Not merely that. Love is light. It illuminates your path and makes
your journey of life safe and secure. When you carry the light of Love with you,
you will never find darkness. Fill your hearth with Love. There is no wealth
greater than Love. Love is God. Live in Love. (qtd. in Singh 209)
James describes to John his master’s opinion on cruelty:
…how hard-hearted and cowardly it was to hurt the weak and the
helpless…cruelty was the devil’s own trade mark, and if we saw anyone who
took pleasure in cruelty, we might know to whom he belonged, for the devil was
a murderer from the beginning and a tormentor to the end. On the other hand,
where we saw people who loved their neighbours and were kind to man and beast,
we might know that was God’s mark; for “God is Love.” (Sewell 70)
Love as a dominant quality ensures the presence of the rest of the values expected of an
ideal individual. For, where love is, there untruth shall not be; where love is, there
injustice and unfairness shall not be; where love is, there fear shall not be. Thus love,
when nourished, brings along prudence, justice and courage. What Aristotle envisaged
for a moral and ethical society is achievable through the nurturing of love in the hearts
of men, according to Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Sathya Sai Baba says about non-violence:
D h a n t a l | 57
You consider Ahimsa as merely not hurting others. This is not the whole truth,
speaking too much, working too much, harping on the mistakes of others are all
acts of violence (Himsa) and should be avoided…You must observe restraints in
eating, talking, sleeping, working, and all actions in daily life. (qtd. in Singh 81)
Getting the cab-horses to work tirelessly is violence according to this perspective.
Flogging and whipping is violence. ‘Breaking in’ done carelessly can be inflicting pain,
and be attributed to violence once again. The Aristotelian ethical perspective meets the
Sathya Sai philosophical viewpoint here- the way out of violence is through observance
of restraint. Temperance, or moderation will lead to non-violent existence. Jerry Barker
never harmed anyone, nor did he indulge in any excess or unnecessary talk. He ate, slept
and worked only as much as required; he also restrained himself from drinking in a
society where drinking was rampant. He was at peace, unlike the other cab-drivers,
because he wished only for what he needed. He was not greedy for money or fame. He
believed in taking the Sunday off, to spend quality time with his family, and to give rest
to his horses. He also composed meaningful songs to sing along at work. Jerry Barker is
an archetype for a man non-violent and temperate – a culmination of Baba’s human
values and Aristotle’s ethics.
In its educational philosophy, the Sai philosophy also sets ideals for the
teacher, not just the taught. The right mix of law and love is crucial for a teacher in order
to help a child develop. A balance is very essential for a wholesome personality. Squire
Gordon, for example, displays this balance in his treatment of people as well as horses.
He does not ill-treat them, rather he loves them. But at the same time, he is strict with
them and does not let them become lazy and unkempt.
D h a n t a l | 58
Satya Sai Baba wishes for humans to “Develop virtuous qualities, for only then
will humanity blossom in you. To indulge in demonic actions while having the human
form means degrading human nature” (qtd. in Rita Bruce 161). Anna Sewell’s classic
Black Beauty has human characters who exhibit bestial behaviour and non-human
animals who exemplify real humane conduct. Hence it is not the external physical form
that defines a man or an animal, but conduct aligned or misaligned to eternal values and
undebatable ethics that can make a man out of an animal or vice versa. The literary text
has provided ground to explore the changeless ethics and morals through its characters
and their actions. Thinking animals and speaking humans - together they send out the
message to be aacharanamaanavulu rather than aakaaramaanavulu - men of actions
rather than of appearance.
To sum up, this chapter has discussed how whatever else may change in the
world, ethics and morals will not. This has been shown by placing side by side ancient
Greek philosophy and contemporary Eastern philosophy. Moral education is as important
as, if not more than, secular education. Literary classics can contribute explicitly and
implicitly to moral education. Children’s literature has greater power to make an impact
on its readers because of the impressionable age they are in. So despite movements like
‘art for art’s sake’, the truth is that good literature always educate, not merely entertain;
it will always instruct, not merely delight; it will always be didactic, not merely aesthetic.
D h a n t a l | 59
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