“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is- whether its victim is
human or animal- we cannot expect things to be much better in this world.”- Rachel Carson. In
the novel Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, there is a charismatic but twisted animal trainer
named August. You may think his name reminds you of the month August so, therefore, he has a
sunny disposition. Don’t let that fool you for one second! While his name suggests otherwise,
he is a dark man (who frequently abuses his wife Marlena).
Domestic violence and abuse are used only for one purpose and one purpose only: to
gain and maintain control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair”. Abusers use fear, guilt,
shame and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. This novel is
set in the Depression and that made it easier for August to maintain control over his wife. She
married him at a young age and her parents disowned her for her action. Marlena only had her
horses and August during these rough times of the Depression. She often made excuses for his
rather wicked fits of anger because half of the time he was as sweet as honey to her.
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the
abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a
deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you. August has a position of power
(head animal trainer) and that clearly went to his head. An example of this is when he ran wild
eyed into the animal tent with a whip and started hitting Rosie, the elephant. Marlena is the
elephant girl and she adore Rosie. He had to...