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Archives > Water For Elephants: Chapters 7-12

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Discuss chapters 7-12 here.


message 2: by Arctic (new)

Arctic | 25 comments some discussion questions from the back of the book that I think can be addressed at this point:

1. To what extent do the chapters concerning the elderly Jacob enhance the chapters recounting the young Jacob’s experiences with the Benzini Brothers circus? In what ways do the chapters about the young Jacob contribute to a deeper understanding of the elderly Jacob’s life?

7. Reflecting on the fact that his platitudes and stories don’t hold his children’s interest, the elderly Jacob notes, “My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik—that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer?” (page 110). How might we learn to appreciate the stories and life lessons of our elders and encourage people younger than ourselves to appreciate our own?

8. Looking at himself in the mirror, the old Jacob tries “to see beyond the sagging flesh.” But he claims, “It’s no good. . . . I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?” (page 111). How would you answer that question for Jacob or any individual, or for yourself?


6. After Jacob puts Silver Star down, August talks with him about the reality of the circus. “The whole thing’s illusion, Jacob,” he says, “and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what people want from us. It’s what they expect” (page 104). How does Gruen contrast the worlds of reality and illusion in the novel? Is there anything wrong with pandering to people’s need for illusion? Why do we crave the illusions that the circus represents?


message 3: by Arctic (new)

Arctic | 25 comments This book has got me thinking a lot about old age, what it's like to be old, and where I'm headed in that respect. So, I think it's interesting that a lot of the discussion questions revolve around this topic. I understand the author worked at a nursing home before writing this book, and I think that shows.

With regard to the first question, for one thing we learn that he does get married and that he's always faithful to that person, whoever she is, and had many children. As for what young Jacob teaches us about older Jacob - well he's led a very interesting life, so you can't blame the guy for feeling a bit chagrined as an old man when no one seems to take much genuine interest in him.

I've always said I fear old age more than death and this book does a great job of explaining why that is. Nothing like being set aside to die to lift one's spirits.

Jacob stopped "being himself" I think when he started defining himself by his physical abilities and limitations. I often ponder that philosophical question of who I am and find I frequently have to remind myself of the answer. Otherwise I get as confused as Jacob is.


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Heather, thanks so much for posting those. I hope the other questions didn't spoil anything for you though!


message 5: by Arctic (new)

Arctic | 25 comments nah I just skimmed through and stopped reading the questions when they started getting unfamiliar, around question 11 I think, asking what I thought of Rosie's role as a useful friend.

I really want to discuss the question about the opening line from Horton Hatches an Egg, but I think that's a better one for later on.


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Yeah, I think you have to read the whole thing before you can really discuss the Horton reference.


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