Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
Old Age Quotes in Water for Elephants
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
By the time she returns, I have managed to undo three buttons on my other shirt. Not bad for gnarled fingers. I'm rather pleased with myself. Brain and body, both in working order. (19.9)
This moment represents a big achievement for Jacob: he "un[did] three buttons." Given where he is, this is quite a coup, but his younger self wouldn't have given a second thought to such a banal accomplishment. It shows how much the young and healthy take for granted. This passage also reminds us of the moment where Marlena unbuttons Jacob's shirt – think of how much has changed since then.
Whatever he [Camel] was when he wandered away from his family, he is incalculably worse now, damaged beyond repair and probably even recognition. And if they're not in a forgiving frame of mind, what will it be like for him to be so helpless in their hands? (21.115)
Jacob worries that Camel will be "helpless in [his family's] hands," that they won't want to have to deal with him. But right before the reunion is supposed to take place, Camel dies. Much later, older Jacob goes through a version of this same worry himself. He's not as "damaged" as Camel was, but he is somewhat helpless in his family's hands. The difference is, at the very end, Jacob is able to walk away.
But it all zipped by. One minute Marlena and I were in it up to our eyeballs, and next thing we knew the kids were borrowing the car and fleeing the coop for college. And now, here I am. In my nineties and alone. (25.9)
Jacob had many wonderful things in his life, but most of them are gone by the end. There was a time – after he and Marlena escaped from August and had a family – that they floated in a happy existence. But that went by so quickly that we barely hear about it in the book. It seems unfair for Jacob that the good parts of his life would go by quickly and the bad ones drag out so long.