Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Water for Elephants

Plot Summary Part 4

Later he joins a zoo. He bones Marlena a lot, and has a lot of kids. When he is in his 90's Jacob flees the senior citizen's home to joins the circus again. The end.

Literary Criticism:

This story is written in the same trite fashion as thousands of other literature novels. The story starts with a death, and then you have to plow through 500 pages of story to figure out why the guy was killed. Excuse me but this literary technique has been done nearly endlessly. Instead of giving us a "death hook", why not simply write a compelling story?

The other trite technique employed here is flashback and flash-forward. About a quarter of the book shows Jacob in his 90's reminiscing. You may notice that I wrote almost nothing about this portion of the book. Why? Because it revealed nothing. The entire story was revealed in the flashbacks. The scenes of 90 year old Jacob moaning in his old age were boring and unrevealing. This again is a very common literary technique, the "old man tells part of the story", and it is done as poorly here as it is in other books. You can skip these parts, as I did, and miss nothing of the story.

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The ending of the story lacked drama. The big tension was the conflict between August and Jacob. The conflict was resolved by an elephant killing August. This was a weak way of avoiding a final resolution between the two; it's as if Jacob was given an easy way out by the elephant. Oh, the elephant killed August, Jacob, your problem is solved, you don't have to do a thing! How disappointing.

The other problem with this story is that it was a one character story. By that I mean the story had many characters but they only seemed to exist around Jacob. Their interactions between each other were superficial at best. From the way the story was written, the characters only seemed to be alive when Jacob was in the room. At other times they felt like they were hung in a closet waiting to be activated.

The story could have been much more interesting if we had seen more interactions between other characters, making the circus around Jacob seemed more fleshed out, more real, rather than something that only came alive when he stepped into the room. There really was only one plot--the love triangle between Jacob, August, and Marlena. The book could have been much more interesting had it had additional storylines.

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Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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