I finished the book and read the discussion questions. I totally missed the parellel with Jacob from the bible. p.23 - resting my head on a flat stone. There was also the vivid dream, though not of angels. What else?
I too think the biblical Jacob parallel is quite a stretch. I feel like I must be missing something. It's not the Jacob and Essau story. It's not the Jacob's ladder either. Also what other names in the story are biblical? I can't seem to answer the question in the book notes.
So glad that others were confused as I regarding the parallel to Jacob's story in the Bible. All I could figure out was that both Jacob's flew from their homes and both waited for a long time for their wives. And I cannot remember any other Biblical names.
Thank you for making me feel that I wasn't really stupid. I finished the book last night and though I don't have the Jacob story memorized, I didn't find the parallel to his story either. Yes, I missed the resting my head on a flat stone, but that is'nt really a parallel to Jacob's story, just a random event in his story. Glad I'm not the only one who can't seem to find it.
Comparing Water for elephants and the book a Genesis is a long stretch. Jacob doesn't steal his brother's birthright. He doesn't run away from home to spend years of servitude earning two wifes and handful of handmaids and twelve kids. He doesn't have a coat of colors and God doesn't change his name to Israel.
Perhaps Sara Gruen is comparing Jacob's "trapped" life in the Benzini Brothers Circus with the trapped life of the biblical Jacob as he works for Laban awaiting his true love Rachel. Read Genesis 29- 33. Both men wrestle with power and morality. Both Jacobs traveled with animals?????? I think the biblical story of Jacob is one of redemption, the story of the circus Jacob is slightly depressing. I cannot imagine why he would return to the circus life. I read this book easliy in three days at the beach. I found the story compelling, but as a personal preference I generally gravitate toward more encouraging story lines. I found the graphic sex annoying and could have done without it.
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.
I remember a Katherine Paterson book titled "Jacob Have I Loved," the title of which comes from a verse in the Bible in which God says "Jacob have I loved but Esau hated." Paterson's book is about sibling jealousy--maybe Gruen or the person connecting the name to the bible is paralleling August & Jacob? Or Walter and Jacob?
Right. I completely missed the anagrams. I love it. The names of the children? Simeon is like Simon. Dinah and Joseph are the same as in the Bible. The other names of the children, Peter and Ruth, are not Jacob's children, but are also Biblical names. The tent dwelling is one thing I caught onto. I caught onto the animal husbandry and the years of servitude. Jacob runs away and ends up falling in love with someone he shouldn't have fallen in love with, like in the Bible. There is the flat rock and the vivid dream. Jacob and Marlena leave with Uncle Al's best animals like in the Bible. Oh, and goats are sacrificed in the book. Aren't goats sacrificed in the Bible. Jacob must do additional years of animal husbandry in order to be with Marlena. He wrestles like Jacob in the Bible and later ends up with a broken hip like in the Bible. He has to duck August like Jacob in the Bible has to watch out for Esau. Hey, August and Esau sound similar too. I feel like I'm rambling. Anyway, I loved the book. I couldn't put it down.
I think that the parallel comes in when Jacob looses everything he studied for by leaving school without completing the vet's exam, but he is redeemed when he is able to take the test and obtain what he had previously worked hard to achieve.
My recollection is that Jacob spent three and a half months in the circus. Please correct me if I'm mistaken. How is that a long time to wait for your wife? Who says there's a parallel b/t this story and the biblical Jacob? Where's the proof?
I just posted this on another thread, but maybe this is a more appropriate place for my question.
I am more interested in the significance of Water for Elephants paralleling the Biblical story of Jacob than the fact that August is Jewish and Jacob and Marlena are Catholic. Of course, I could think of many rationals for the inclusion of the character's religion - 1) to hint to the readers that religion is important to understanding this story, 2) a reference to the Torah & Bible by making characters of each religion, 3) a convenient means of explaining why Marlena cannot count on her parent's support when things go poorly with August.
Why was the Biblical story of Jacob important enough for Sara Gruen to weave into her own story? What does she want the reader to leave with, after making that connection? Is it a form of evangelizing or a tribute to a great book, or something different indeed? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
If you read the "A Conversation with the Author" in the back of the book (or online at Powells.com) she is asked about the biblical parallel and states "It won't detract from the story if you don't know it's there, but I thought it would be a fun thing to play up for people who recognize it." I don't think she's evangelizing or really even expects most people to pick up on it, but she's right that it adds an interesting layer that enriches the story a little.
this is one of my top ten favorite books and i am currently preparing to present it to my book club. thank you for all the insights listed here! one that i thought of that i don't think is mentioned -- jacob in the bible fell in love with rachel at first sight and jacob in the book reacted the same upon seeing marlena.
Minnie ha ha seems incredibly defensive for no reason. I don't believe Gruen intended for the parallel to significantly add to the context of the novel; she wasn't trying to go for "Narnia". Its not necessary to understand the similarities, so if you don't see them or appreciate them you shouldn't let it bother you. It was simply a fun gesture.