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Parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob

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Cindy I read in the paperback version of this book that the author used the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis as the backbone of this novel. I can see some parallels, but I also see maybe even more parallels with the story of Joseph. Anyone have any comments?

Martha I read the same thing and at my book club we tried to figure out what the relationship was. We were pretty stumped besides the dream both Jacobs had and a couple of other minor clues. Then someone googled it and it seems there's a lot of anagrams of names (Leah=Hale) which I thought was pretty disappointing. I would appreciate it if anyone can come up with something more substantial.

Cindy I went to my Bible and read the story of Jacob. I can sort of see a parallel to the "stealing the birthright" part. In Water for Elephants, Jacob comes in and gets in Uncle Al's good graces without a lot of history (that August has?)??? But - like you, Martha, I'd appreciate other opinions!

Martha Any Bible scholars out there want to tackle this? This has peaked my curiosity.

Elizabeth I was also a little confused. On a discussion thread of this book at Amazon there is a post that is supposedly from the author herself. It reads, "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." Here is the link as well...http://www.amazon.com/Parellels-the-b...

Martha Thanks Elizabeth. The tie between the two stories makes more sense now. I knew someone would figure this out!

Chris Antenen I feel so shallow. Never read that there was some connection with Jacob, so I didn't look for it. In case you're curious, I just read a post by Sara Gruen on Amazon. I liked the book because of the subject and because I could close my eyes and see (and smell) the circuses and freak shows of my youth and also the nursing home where I volunteered. These characters were reality based and yet exotic. I like to analyze structure, too, but I liked this book because it was well written and held my attention all the way. I know it was a little far-fetched, meeting someone by chance at the end of the book, someone who just happened to be able to get him a good seat at the circus and listened to him tell his story, but sometimes that's all I want -- a good story.

Martha Chris, that is absolutely legitimate. A good story can be just the thing and we don't always have to dig and delve to find the "inner meanings" of a book. Thanks for your comment.

Jamie While I'm impressed that the author stopped by on Amazon and explained herself and all, I found myself wondering the same thing at the end of the book - how does this parallel the biblical story of Jacob? And when I saw that I really felt like I missed something, but after trying to come up with things that linked the 2 stories I was pretty much left with the fact that the protagonists have the same name.

I'd like to think that I am pretty perceptive, and I do have a fairly decent knowledge of the Bible, but until I read Sara Gruen's post on Amazon I could not understand how the stories were tied together. And if you can't manage to make those points stand out in the text itself, if only vaguely, you probably shouldn't make the claim that it's based on Jacob's biblical story. I feel like maybe if I had known it was based on Jacob's story before I started reading I may have picked up on a few more things... but anagrams? This was not a book I picked up to discover hidden meanings and riddles. It was an innovative, compelling story that I truly enjoyed more than almost any other work of contemporary fiction I have read lately, but to claim it's a sort of biblical re-telling is very much a stretch.

Sharon If an author gives me a good story--quirky, likable characters and a strong sense of time and place--I'm perfectly content to suspend my disbelief for a few short hours. I agree--sometimes all I'm looking for is a good story. It's the circus, after all. Isn't that were people go for fun? So amuse me--amaze me, even--just don't expect me to analyze it. Pass the popcorn and bring on the circus!

Marla Well, I think we are all in agreement here over the Jacob parallels. It was such a great story and so well written, having any biblical significance is totally gratuitous. It seems to me that by trying to label her book with this supposed parallel, the author is maybe just pulling at straws because she doesn't think the book is as deep or intellectual as it really is? Maybe she's trying to puff the book up to make it sound better to her.. I don't know. I absolutely loved the book, biblical reference or not.

Cindy I agree. I think the story was very imaginative and really "hooked" me from the start. And - I also agree that sometimes it's enough to just have a good story!

(And, I'm glad that there are others out there who didn't see the Biblical parallels either!)

Diana I haven't poked around the internet or seen any interviews, but as I was reading this thread, especially Chris's message 8, it occured to me that the ending has echoes of Ulysses the poem, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, when Ulysses/Odysseus is hanging out on the banks, old and finished with his journey, but still wanting more. He decided to go out for one last time, even if he is too old and his son should be the adventurer now. The ending of the poem,
"One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
seems to sum up what Jacob feels and the end and why he chose to go back out with the circus rather than die at home.

It's not biblical, but it seems to resonate more with me in depth instead of in superficials.

Cookiesue9x My husband and I just finished the book. It was an extremly quick read for each of us.
I have been involved in in- depth Bible Study for the first time, ever, over the last year,and, I felt a little dumb for getting NO Biblical parallels.
I got the impression(at the end) that Jacob wouldn't have to go back to the "Home" was that just wish fullfillment on my part?

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