Water for Elephants Book Review Sample

Water for Elephants

“Water for Elephants” is an intriguing novel by Sarah Gruen, revolving around the life of Jacob Jankowski, Marlena and August; three characters, very interesting in personality. This analysis will contrast the characters of Jacob and August. August was the husband to Marlena but Jacob was August’s colleague, who fell in love with August’s wife, Marlena. The literary piece is an interesting story exploring the intrigues in the love triangle existent in the three characters. Their personalities play out rather interestingly and unpredictably.

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Point 1

Jacob and August are both friendly people as can be evidenced without the inclusion of Marlena in the picture. The novel narrates how both shared dinner, on occasions, and exchanged their stories about life’s experiences. Despite a lack of blood relations between the two, August persuades his Uncle Al to accommodate Jacob in the circus after learning he previously studied in a veterinarian school. Jacob is also observed to strike a friendly relationship with August in their first interactions. They both accommodate each other on friendly terms till Marlena comes into the picture.

August is quite different from Jacob because he can easily be moody and violent. Jacob makes this observation after a few interactions with August. Jacob’s violent nature can be manifested when he beats his wife Marlena after discovering her intention to leave him. Moreover, he fights Jacob and accuses him of having an affair with his wife. Jacob on the other hand seems calm and collected despite his love for Marlena. He takes a more calm approach in handling this situation because he talks to Marlena in discretion, instead of confronting the issue head-on, the way August did.

Point 2

Both August and Jacob are very jealous characters. August was evidently jealous that his wife, Marlena was falling in love with Jacob while Jacob was jealous of August because he had a beautiful wife, whom he admired. This caused them to engage in a nasty brawl at the circus, fighting over Marlena. August’s jealousy is clearly manifested because he beat his wife with regard to the issue, while Jacob’s jealous nature is manifested when he develops a deep affection for Marlena. In essence, Jacob was jealous of August because he had a good woman and August was jealous because he knew his wife was falling in love with Jacob.

Unlike August, Jacob is a schemer. Ever since he set his eyes on Marlena, Jacob had been scheming all along to steal Marlena way from her husband. The plot of the story analyzes Jacob’s scheming tendencies because he grows close to August, just so he could maintain close contact with August’s wife. As the story progresses, Jacob schemes to keep Marlena away from her husband by hiding her in a town hotel, so that August couldn’t find her. Throughout these events, August takes a more direct approach becomes he confronts both Jacob and his wife without concealing his intentions and feelings towards their affair. Jacob on the other hand, conceals his intentions towards Marlena.

Point 3 

Apart from the intrigues that surround Marlena with relation to Jacob and August, both have a deep love for the circus. The story depicts them as lovers of their work in the circus. August was killed while working in the circus and was even the manager of the circus at one point. After Jacob narrates his story to a caring circus manager (when the story ends), he runs off with the circus for a second time. In other words, both shared a deep love for their careers.

August comes out as an honest and understanding man, unlike Jacob. After August separates with Marlena, Uncle Al intervenes because he wanted to see them back together. After all that Marlena did to August, he takes her back for a while, unaware of Jacob’s dishonesty in seeing them back together. August is seen as an understanding and honest man by taking his wife back even after having an affair with Jacob though behind the scenes, Jacob disguised himself as wanting to facilitate their reunion, though he worked tirelessly behind their backs to keep Marlena way from her husband. This clearly depicts him as a dishonest man. 


This novel comes out as an interesting narration of the intrigues of love. However, interestingly, it shows very little of Marlena’s opinion despite her role being the centre of the story. More emphasis is given on the intrigues between August and Jacob. Marlena’s opinions are only limited to accepting Jacob’s offer of fleeing with her and being afraid of August’s actions. This is a mirror to the society’s perception of women; in that, their opinions are very rarely regarded in any issue. More insight should have been given of here opinions in the whole narration because I believe, she was the centre of the story.