Analysis Pages

Plot in Black Beauty

Plot Examples in Black Beauty:

Part I - 02-The Hunt

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"church-bell tolling..."   (Part I - 02-The Hunt)

Church bells ringing generally signals some important occasion, such as a weddings or a funeral. In this case, it is a funeral.

"bringing back the past..."   (Part I - 05-A Fair Start)

This phrase is a reference to the loss of the squire's son in a hunting accident while riding a horse named Rob Roy.

"the fidgets..."   (Part I - 06-Liberty)

The word "fidgets" refers to a feeling of restlessness or nervousness, in this case because he is not always allowed to run.

"persecutor..."   (Part I - 07-Ginger)

The word "persecutor" refers to one who consistently torments another in some fashion, in this case by mistreating and whipping.

"weaned..."   (Part I - 07-Ginger)

The word "weaned" means to be deprived from its original food source (in this case, her mother) in an attempt to break a dependence.

"pet scheme..."   (Part I - 11-Plain Speaking)

The word "pet scheme" refers to a favorite idea or plan, in this case, a bad idea—abusing his horses to make sure they know who is in charge.

"come down very heavy..."   (Part I - 11-Plain Speaking)

The phrase "to come down very heavy" means to speak one's mind in a strong way against something, in this case against the mistreatment of horses.

"aggravate..."   (Part I - 13-The Devil's Trade Mark)

The verb "to aggravate" means to annoy or irritate; in this case, to get the horse upset enough to throw its rider off.

"scratching..."   (Part I - 13-The Devil's Trade Mark)

Literally getting scratched by the hedge, so it must have been comprised of plants with sharp twigs or branches.

"thrashing..."   (Part I - 13-The Devil's Trade Mark)

The word "thrashing" refers to a harsh beating with some object, in this case, probably a whip.

"beat the bush on this side..."   (Part I - 14-James Howard)

This phrase means to try to gather information by trickery, in this case by saying deliberately negative things about James in order to find out if John Manly agrees.

"it's a pity but what he had been drowned like a puppy or a kitten, before he got his eyes open..."   (Part I - 17-John Manly's Talk)

In other words, "It is too bad that kind of man was not taken, shortly after he was born, and drowned like an unwanted kitten or puppy is on a farm."

"Bill Starkey..."   (Part I - 19-Only Ignorance)

As with Martha Mulwash, we have no evidence that Bill Starkey is a real person, though he may have been (or been modeled after) someone Sewall knew.

"Martha Mulwash..."   (Part I - 19-Only Ignorance)

There is no evidence to suggest that this is a real person or a real story, though she may have been a local figure in the author's world.

"constitution..."   (Part II - 22-Earlshall)

The word "constitution" refers to composition or disposition, in this case he says she is naturally a little more irritable than the black horse.

"stood up better for..."   (Part II - 23-A Strike for Liberty)

This phrase means stood up more for, in this case for the rights and care of the horses.

"side-saddle..."   (Part II - 24-The Lady Anne, or a Runaway Horse)

The word "side-saddle" refers to a saddle which allows a woman to sit sideways on a horse (with both legs on one side of the animal) rather than astride (with one leg on each side of the animal), usually used in equestrian events (horse riding competitions).

"bout..."   (Part II - 25-Reuben Smith)

The word "bout" refers to a short but intense period of some activity, in this case drinking.

"Union House..."   (Part II - 26-How it Ended)

The Union House is the the local poor house, a place where the needy or dependent (poor) went when they could not support themselves.

"playing the old soldier..."   (Part II - 28-A Job Horse and His Drivers)

The idiom "playing the old soldier" refers to the knowledge and experience with which an experienced soldier figures out a way to make his life easier, in this case by pretending to be lame.

"blustered..."   (Part II - 30-A Thief)

The word "to bluster" means to talk loudly and with great passion but little content, in this  case in an effort to divert attention from the truth.

"thrush..."   (Part II - 31-A Humbug)

The word "thrush" refers to a bacterial infection in a horse's hoof, in this case due to the damp straw he was forced to stand in.

"kept up to it but for that day..."   (Part III - 33-A London Cab Horse)

In other words, "kept going as long as we did if it were not for that day of rest."

"I should think they never saw it..."   (Part III - 34-An Old War Horse)

In other words, "Probably only those who have not seen war would think it was 'a very fine thing.'"

"ruined..."   (Part III - 34-An Old War Horse)

Would never be able to walk again, at least not without tremendous pain.

"beaten off..."   (Part III - 34-An Old War Horse)

The phrase "beaten off" means to hit with the flat of the sword to get out of the battle (the soldiers were trying to protect the horses as well as get them out of the way).

"champing of our bits..."   (Part III - 34-An Old War Horse)

The phrase "champing of our bits" means biting down on their mouth pieces (bits) in their eagerness to do something, in this case go to battle.

"caparisoned..."   (Part III - 34-An Old War Horse)

The word "caparisoned" means that the horses, too, were wearing all their finest and most ornamental military gear.

"whipcord..."   (Part III - 35-Jerry Barker)

The word "whipcord" refers to the material used to make whips (implying here that Larry whips his horses too often or too much).

"find a curse come with your wealth..."   (Part III - 35-Jerry Barker)

In other words, "Your wealth will not be cursed because you got it dishonestly."

"pocketed..."   (Part III - 35-Jerry Barker)

The word "pocketed" means earned, in this case from the man who was in such a hurry to get to the station—his last passenger.

"chirrup..."   (Part III - 35-Jerry Barker)

The word "chirrup" means a short little sound, in this case the signal the driver uses to signal his horse to begin moving.

"put on the steam..."   (Part III - 35-Jerry Barker)

The phrase "to put on the steam" means to go faster (the steam reference is to steam engines, powered mostly by coal or wood). In this case, it means to make the horse go faster.

"alter..."   (Part III - The Sunday Cab)

The word "alter" means to change, in this case from a license to run his cabs six days a week to a license to run all seven days of the week.

"look to..."   (Part III - 39-Seedy Sam)

The phrase "to look to" means to take care of, in this case, care for and about the horses' health and welfare.

"great bills..."   (Part III - 42-The Election)

"Great bills" refers to large signs, in this case with their version of election bumper stickers.

"mistress..."   (Part III - 43-A Friend in Need)

A mistress is someone for whom one works, in this case Polly's former employer.

"Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these..."   (Part III - 43-A Friend in Need)

A reference to Matthew 25:30 in the Bible: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." In this case, Jerry knows he has done a good deed which honors God.

"number..."   (Part III - 43-A Friend in Need)

The number which identifies the cabbies, as a license plate does with cars.

"dodge..."   (Part III - 43-A Friend in Need)

The word "dodge" refers to a trick, in this case letting the men think he was going to take them where they wanted to go, though he had no intention of taking them anywhere.

"chains..."   (Part III - 44-Old Captain and His Successor)

Figuratively, chains are anything that keep a person enslaved or from being free; in this case, the chains of alcohol addiction or control.

"I thought I should have died..."   (Part III - 44-Old Captain and His Successor)

He thought he should have died probably because he was suffering withdrawal symptoms (such as shaking, headaches, anxiety, and even hallucinations).

"slave..."   (Part III - 44-Old Captain and His Successor)

Here, the word "slave" refers to anyone who is addicted to a substance, such as alcohol.

"treading pretty hard on my toes..."   (Part III - 44-Old Captain and His Successor)

The phrase "to treat on one's toes" means to offend someone with words. In this case, Jerry is commenting about how evil alcohol and drinking alcohol are to someone who admittedly likes to drink alcohol (a more modern version is "stepping on someone's toes").

"charge..."   (Part III - 45-Jerry's New Year)

The word "charge" refers to the fee they had to pay Jerry, the cab driver, for the ride and his time.

"three hundredweight..."   (Part IV - 46-Jakes and the Lady)

A hundredweight is equivalent to a hundred pounds, so this weight is three hundred pounds.

"fetch..."   (Part IV - 47-Hard Times)

The word "fetch" means to bring, in this case how much money he will get for the horse.

"hold your tongue..."   (Part IV - 47-Hard Times)

The phrase "to hold one's tongue" means to be quiet; stay silent; in this case, quit talking about the condition of the horse.

"genteel..."   (Part IV - 48-Farmer Thoroughgood and His Grandson Willie)

The word "genteel" mans elegant and well bred; in this case, people who are not going to mistreat the horse.

"benefactor..."   (Part IV - 48-Farmer Thoroughgood and His Grandson Willie)

The word "benefactor" refers to someone who gives help or aid, especially in the form of money; in this case, the kind man bought the horse and will take good care of the animal.

"trial..."   (Part IV - 49-My Last Home)

The word "trial" refers to a trial period, in this case to see if this horse is a good fit for them.

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