October 7, 2011
Water for Elephants Approach Paper
I. Summary Paragraph:
Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants is an account of ninety-something year old Jacob Jankowski’s life, both in the present day, where he resides in a nursing home, unhappy with his living conditions and the old age that has robbed him of his freedom, and through flashbacks of when he was young, traveling with the circus. Just a few days away from getting his veterinary degree from Cornell University, Jacob’s mother and father were suddenly killed in an automobile accident, sending Jacob’s life spiraling out of control; with his parents’ debt having left him with no home and no money, he hops aboard a circus train for the “Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth,” where he lands a job as the vet. The show is owned and run by Alan J. Bunkel, referred to as Uncle Al, and his right hand man and equestrian director August, who becomes Jacob’s boss. August is a paranoid schizophrenic who switches between kind and charming to vicious and violent, and through the course of the story Jacob faces a number of challenges in dealing with August, while also learning how to function in the hierarchy of the circus and falling in love with August's wife, Marlena. During the circus’s travels, it acquires a new member: an elephant named Rosie who is first thought to be useless, and during one episode learns to pull her stake out of the ground so she can repeatedly steal the circus’s lemonade, resulting in fits of rage by Uncle Al and hatred as well as harsh punishment from August. The elephant is later discovered by Jacob to not be stupid, but to only understand commands in Polish, after which she is trained and becomes the star of the show. Life is better than ever in the circus, and Jacob and Marlena fall more and more in love with each other, to the jealousy of August, who accuses his wife of cheating, hits her, and gets in a huge brawl with Jacob. After that, things start going downhill as...
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