As the memories begin, Jacob Jankowski is twenty-three years old and preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the news that his parents were killed in a car accident. Jacob’s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. When Jacob learns that his father was deeply in debt because he had been treating animals for free as well as mortgaging the family home to provide Jacob an Ivy League education, he has a breakdown and leaves school just short of graduation. In the dark of night, he jumps on a train only to learn it is a circus train. When the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, learns of his training as a vet, he is hired to care for the circus animals. This consequently leads Jacob to share quarters with a dwarf named Walter (who is known as Kinko to the circus) and his dog Queenie. A few weeks later Jacob is summoned to take a look at Camel, an old man who, after drinking Jamaican ginger extract for many years, can't move his arms or legs. Fearing Camel will be "red-lighted" (referring to the practice of throwing circus workers off a moving train as either punishment or as severance from the circus to avoid paying wages), he hides him in his room.
The head trainer, August, is a brutal man who abuses the animals in his care (such as the new elephant Rosie) as well as the people around him. Alternately, he can be utterly charming. Jacob develops a guarded relationship with August and his wife, Marlena, with whom Jacob falls in love. August is suspicious of their relationship and beats Marlena and Jacob. Marlena subsequently leaves August and stays at a hotel while she's not performing. Uncle Al then informs Jacob that August is a paranoid schizophrenic and then utters a threat: reunite August and Marlena as a happily... [continues]
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(2011, 04). Water for Elephants. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 04, 2011, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Water-For-Elephants-673368.html
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