Water for Elephants
How we cite our quotes:
And most of all, I hate that I've let them [Marlena and Rosie] both down. I don't know if the elephant is smart enough to connect me to her punishment and wonder why I didn't do anything to stop it, but I am and I do. (12.154)
This is an example of courage that isn't acted upon. Jacob knows what he should have done – stop the punishment of Rosie – but he wasn't able to. He thinks here that if he were truly courageous, he would have helped her. He blames himself for not being able to help her and laments his cowardice.
Walter stares at me, tapping his fingers against his leg. After half a minute of silence he says, "All right. Bring him on over. Don't let anyone see you or we'll all catch hell." (14.253)
Walter knows better than to help Camel when everybody's out to get him – to do so is to put all of them in danger. Yet he does it anyway. This is a big act of courage and, sadly for Walter, it doesn't pay off.
"Yes. You can. Come on. Walk away."
I stare at the silent tent. After another few seconds, I tear my eyes from the billowing flap and walk away. (18.127-28)
Sometimes butting in to try to defend someone can do more harm than good. Here Jacob is forced to accept the realization that he needs to "walk away" from the situation and that if he pushes himself into "the silent tent" he'll just make matters worse for everyone. It goes against his every instinct to keep himself from defending those he loves, but at last he accepts that he has no choice this time: he'll just have to watch and wait.