The story “Water for Elephants” takes place back in the day in a circus, everything was a lot harsher then compared to how it is now. It was said that in order for a spectacular show to stay in business there needed to be a copious amount of suffering and sacrifices made. What stood out most in this story was the theme suffering. Suffering is an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. In the novel we watch all the characters suffer as a group as well as on their own.
The first time we see any suffering in this story is near the beginning when Jacob goes to write his final exam for veterinary school and is interrupted by the Dean who tells him his parents had just passed away. “This morning, I had parents. This morning, they ate breakfast. I fall to my knees, right there on the back stoop, howling into splayed hands.” (2. 42-43) After Jacobs parents died he experienced a lot of suffering and grief, his emotional trauma made it impossible for him to finish the exam.
Later on in the story one of Marlena’s star horses Silver Star gets irrevocably ill so they’re forced to put him down because they don’t want him to suffer anymore. "No. I'm afraid there's no chance the horse will get better at all."
She lays a hand on his neck, holding it there. "In that case, promise me it will be quick. I don't want him to suffer." (7.128-129) The only way Marlena can handle it is if the death is "quick" - she equates a longer death with "suffering."
Marlena also experiences a lot of psychological and physical suffering throughout this novel. August is an extremely abusive husband and he physically abuses her multiple times during Jacobs’s time with the circus, along with the animals. He is constantly playing mind games with her and the ambiguity of his mood is extremely taxing on her psyche. “You whore!” August screams. “You slut. You mangy bitch!” (18. pg.246) August is constantly...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document