Friday, January 9, 2009
A Little Kindness, Please
I'll bet that if you're a reader, you can name at least one book that influenced some aspect of your life. An enduring classic that rates high on my list is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. In fact, I'm so fond of the story that its one of my favorite gift books for children.
Yet Black Beauty wasn't written for kids. Published in 1877, Sewell hoped to reach the hands of those who used horses. Wheelchair bound from youth, it broke her heart to see the majestic animals often literally worked to death. In a brilliant stroke, she wrote her novel from the horse's point of view, a method that powerfully connected the reader to the four-legged main character, Beauty, and by extension to all animals. We see good masters, foolish masters, and even cruel ones through Beauty's eyes in a way that portrays "dumb beasts" as thinking, feeling creatures, not so very different from humans. Her portrayal must have been a unique concept for 19th century society, and became a commercial success. Best of all, Anna Sewell accomplished her goal. The novel is credited with fueling the movement to improve the life of both animals and people by encouraging compassionate and humane treatment.
Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we practiced the message of Black Beauty today?