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Characters

Meet the Cast

Jacob Jankowski

Jacob is working overtime as the narrator of Water for Elephants. Younger Jacob and older Jacob each gets to have his say: they both have their own trials and tribulations, and they both tell the s...

Marlena

Marlena is gutsy and beautiful: what a combination. She seems pretty modern for a woman of the 1930s. She rebelliously ran away from home as a teenager, married August, and joined the circus. And s...

Rosie the Elephant

[Spoiler alert! Don't say we didn't warn you.]Rosie is good-natured and lovable. She's loyal, intelligent, and sweet. All in all, she's pretty normal: she doesn't understand English that well, havi...

August

August is a classic antagonist. He's the straight-up villain of Water for Elephants. He's a wife-beater, an animal abuser, and a downright cruel individual. At numerous points in the book, people t...

Uncle Al

Uncle Al is the classic circus impresario: "He has ringmaster written all over him, from the scarlet coat and white jodhpurs to the top hat and waxed curled moustache. He strides across the lot lik...

Rosemary the Nurse

Rosemary is Jacob's favorite nurse at the retirement home and the only one who really treats him with respect. She gives him real food when he asks for it, listens when he talks, and treats him lik...

Walter

Walter starts out as Jacob's enemy and ends up as his friend. (Aw.) The path is somewhat arduous and tough, though. It takes a long time for Walter to trust Jacob. At first he doesn't even let Jaco...

Camel

Camel is one of the first people Jacob meets at the circus and one of the first to be kind to him. Indeed, if it weren't for Camel, Jacob wouldn't have made it on board as a circus worker at all. T...

Charlie

Charlie enters the book in the second-to-last chapter and plays a small but pivotal role. Aside from us readers, Charlie is the only person to hear Jacob's whole life story. We are the chosen ones,...

The Circus Crowd

Aside from August, Marlena, Al, Camel, and Walter, the other people who work at the circus sort of blend together in a whirl of performers, roustabouts (workers who don't always last that long), an...

Joseph McGuinty

McGuinty is a minor character who appears early on in the book. He is mainly important because of the contrast he presents to Jacob. McGuinty seems to like the old people's home and wants to fit in...

Jacob's Children

Jacob's children are practically nonexistent, and maybe that's the point. They have abandoned him at a retirement home and moved on with their own lives. He can barely tell them apart anymore. It's...

Catherine Hale

Catherine is a woman at Jacob's veterinary school who teases and flirts with him. He desires her but later finds that he desires Marlena much more. Catherine seems to represent the idea of sex and...

Jacob's Parents

Jacob's parents loved him deeply and sacrificed a great deal for him. They mortgaged their house to get him a good education at Cornell. They hoped that when he graduated he'd come home to work at...
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