Water for Elephants…analysis

I read that the story of Jacob is allegedly the backbone of Water for Elephants.So, I read the story of Jacob, (son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham, who almost sacrificed Isaac).

From my understanding of both works, the only clear connection is the theme of deception. Jacob decieving first his brother, then his father. Rachel and Leah’s father, repeatedly decieving Jacob.

In Water for Elephants, deception runs quite rampant, especially from Uncle Al, who would constantly swindle his own crew and performers.

I’m not sure if Jacob Jankowski is a parallel to Jacob, son of Isaac. I tried talking to my resident Bible expert (aka best friend), but she wasn’t very familiar with the story and the significance of Jacob’s ladder. I need to find someone who has read both, and can shed some light on this matter.

I’m still trying to figure out the significance of the animals. Obviously they played a huge role in the lives of the characters, but the only animals that were really discussed were Bobo the monkey, Rosie the elephant, and Silver Star, Marlena’s star horse. Why these three animals?

Its an interesting connection when Rosie comes into the story, I kept thinking of that line ” An elephant in the room”

Wikipedia’s definition: an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a small room would be impossible to overlook.

And there many moments like this throughout the rest of the novel after Rosie’s appearance up until the end of the novel.


On a side note, I should really find a book club in my area to join. I think I should start one at whatever library I end up being hired to work for. All the current ones around me are for either mystery books, or are held at noon on Wednesdays, when I am working. Its not so much fun analyzing books on my own without someone else to counter my ideas.


6 responses to “Water for Elephants…analysis

  1. devourerofbooks

    I saw that this is here, but I am waiting to read it until after I read the book. I like reviews for deciding whether to buy a book, but not right before I read it. I’m going to bookmark this and read it after my review, then we can discuss!

  2. Sounds like a plan! I can’t wait.

  3. devourerofbooks

    I finished it today, after starting it last night. Where did you hear about the connection to Jacob in the Bible? I so do not see the connection…

  4. It came up as question 16 in the Water for Elephants Reading Group Guide.

    16. Sara Gruen has said that the “backbone” of her novel “parallels the biblical story of Jacob,” in the book of Genesis. On the first night after his leaving Cornell, for example, Jacob — as did his biblical namesake — lies “back on the bank, resting my head on a flat stone” (page 23). In what other ways does Water for Elephants parallel the story of the biblical Jacob? How do the names of many of the characters reflect names of characters in the biblical account?


    I read the story of Jacob, but the connection still felt a little thin to me.

  5. Yah, it seems REALLY thin. It isn’t like East of Eden where Genesis parallels are obvious. I think she’s trying too hard to be biblical-themed literature if she really thinks the biblical Jacob is the backbone of the store. Who is his Esau, Rebecca and Leah? I don’t think him fighting August is really like Jacob wrestling the angel.

  6. The author actually answers this question in another discussion group (the post and link are below).


    In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2007 8:21 AM PDT
    Sarah G says:
    There are anagrams, both exact and phonetic: Catherine Hale=Leah, Marlena L’Arche=Rachel, Alan Bunkel (Uncle Al)=Uncle Laban

    There is the flat rock, the dream, the animal husbandry for Uncle Laban, Jacob and Rachel (Marlena) leave with Uncle Al’s (Uncle Laban’s) best livestock, Jacob must do an additional seven years of animal husbandry in order to be with Marlena, he breaks his hip, etc. Some of his children’s names are the same as well.


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