Water for Elephants

6th Six Weeks IRP

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Set Up

In the book, Sara Gruen shares the backstory of the protagonist, Jacob Jankowski, who is either 90 or 93 and is living in a retirement home. His daily struggles with the nurses and the other patients are the backstory for the circus saga. The book constant switches back and forth from different times as Jacob reminisces about his past. Although the movie begins with a similarly aged Jacob, it differs from the novel because he is already at the circus, standing in the rain, having missed the Spectacular. The movie never shows the nursing home and favors long flashbacks over short ones. Jacob's less cantankerous demeanor and the omission of the retirement facility make the ending decision to go with the circus less of a necessity because there is no apparent misery to escape.
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Characters

The biggest difference in terms of characters is Uncle Al, who is completely removed in the movie rendition. The novel's primary antagonist, August, therefore becomes the only villainous influence on Jacob. August is portrayed as an abusive and explosive individual in both works, but he wields more power in the movie because he is morphed with Uncle Al. This allows all of Jacob's wrath and frustration to be directed at one character, creating more negativity and tension between the two. Without this side plot, all of the focus is placed on the interactions between August and Jacob and their fight over Marlena.


Jacob is also different in the book than he is in the movie, both as an old man and as a youth. When he is older in the book, he has been hardened by his surroundings. He is bitter about his situation and desperate to change it. In the movie, however, he is much more personable. As a young man, Jacob is much more conservative in the book than in the movie. It seems to take him longer to adjust in the book than it does in the movie where he begins telling half-truths right from the start. These differences alter the audience's perception of Jacob. He appears more wholesome in on than the other which may change how individuals can relate to him.


Marlena by herself is the same in both the book and the movie, but her romance with Jacob is not. In the book, it is developed over a much longer time than it is in the movie. While this might be due solely to the time crunch of fitting an entire book into a movie, it does make it seem as though she was looking for a way to escape her controlling husband. In the book, she resists Jacob's advances and tries to make her marriage work more than she does in the movie. Seeing the way August treats her, the way the movie showed their romance is plausible but not true to the original text.

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Drama

To add more drama, it seems like the director of the movie added more climactic scenes. The book and movie share intense moments like the incident in the tent with Rosie and the menagerie animals being released, but the movie has some of its own. First, Marlena is present for the putting down of Silver Star in the movie, an action that is against August's wishes. Secon, Jacob and Marlena jump from the train in the night to escape August and his men who intended to red light Jacob over a trustle. Third, August essentially kidnaps Marlena after the spends the night with Jacob, while the two return on their own accord in the book.


Several scenes were omitted from the movie that may have been deemed to risque. These moments did not add to the plot, but they did characterize the immoral circus crowd. Those who have not read the book may not fully understand the setting because of their removal.

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