Study Guide

Water for Elephants Chapter 18

By Sara Gruen

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Chapter 18

  • Jacob goes to meet Rosie, Marlena, and August after the act. August leaves Marlena and Jacob alone for a moment and Jacob accidentally goes on too much about how great it was to watch her do her thing.
  • The two have an intimate moment and – oops – Jacob notices that August seems to be aware of it. Marlena, not realizing that her husband is listening, asks Jacob to bring Rosie to meet her later.
  • Jacob brings Rosie around and they wait for Marlena. While he's waiting, he talks with two guys, Grady and Bill, about how Camel's doing.
  • Rosie messes around and the men and elephant tease each other a little. They talk about Walter.
  • Grady reveals that being in the war affected Camel. He also adds that the circus might be making money again. Nice.
  • Grady helps get Rosie set up in Marlena's tent, and Jacob gives her a watermelon. He figures out he should probably dress for dinner.
  • Later, Marlena sets up a beautiful meal for the three of them – herself, Jacob, and August – plus Rosie. Jacob is impressed and Rosie's happy. Everything seems to be going okay.
  • August comes in, but instead of taking the event for what it is – a merry gathering to toast the success of the act – he suspects Marlena and Jacob of having an affair. He's crass, scary, and seemingly on the verge of violence. He refuses to believe their denials and continues to accuse them of adultery. This can't end well.
  • August smashes a bunch of stuff and totally ruins their dinner.
  • Rosie is frightened and pees in her non-existent pants – poor girl.
  • August accuses Marlena of pretending to take extra time to make Rosie a fancy new headdress as an excuse to cover up her affair with Jacob. (Which, we know, just isn't true.)
  • August curses and tears the headdress apart. He attacks Marlena, then Jacob attacks him.
  • Jacob and August fight violently until they are separated by onlookers. Then some of the circus guys restrain Jacob, who is powerless as August attacks Marlena. This is just awful.
  • Walter makes Jacob leave, and the two guys go to see Camel.
  • Jacob is in bad shape and Walter cares for him. He drinks and explains what happened: how August lost it and attacked Marlena.
  • Walter isn't confident that August didn't have a reason for attacking Jacob.
  • Camel tries to help, but they make him hide. Walter takes care of Jacob and guards him: he's worried some of the other circus folk are going to come after them. After a while, it seems like they're going to be okay, so they're able to rest.
  • Later, someone comes in, and Walter's ready to defend them all. But it turns out to be Marlena, who is pretty beat up herself.
  • Camel and Walter want Jacob and Marlena to have some space, so the couple goes to hang out with the horses. Jacob and Marlena are getting closer and closer and Marlena says she won't stay married to August after this. We'd sure hope not.
  • They comfort each other, and…sigh.

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