Study Guide

Water for Elephants Chapter 21

By Sara Gruen

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Chapter 21

  • Marlena wakes up (she's in bed with Jacob, remember). It's lunchtime and she has to be back at the circus in time for the next show.
  • She and Jacob confess their love for each other (um, duh!). They decide the only way to be together is to run away, which they'll do after Camel is safe. These really are some loyal friends.
  • Marlena is shocked to learn that Uncle Al kills people by having them pushed off the train. Walter and Camel could be in danger, and so could she and Jacob, for that matter.
  • Back at the circus, Jacob tells Walter the plan. Walter is pissed off and feels completely abandoned. He thinks Jacob is being stupid, even when Jacob invites him to come along.
  • Jacob goes back to work, and later on, he (reluctantly) meets with Al. He lies and says that Marlena might agree to get back together with August. Al is really pleased, and they drink to the idea.
  • Jacob talks a good talk about a plan for slowly bringing Marlena and August back together. That'll give him and Marlena time to plot their escape. Luckily, Al seems to buy it. There's a real sense of danger in the air, though.
  • The fight between Marlena and August has changed what the circus can do. August can't perform, which means Rosie can't, which means that the audience is disappointed. It takes a long time for August to heal, which means Rosie stays out of the spotlight.
  • August is supposed to stay away from Marlena, but eventually he assaults her (yet again). Jacob complains to Al, and August is temporarily held off.
  • Meanwhile, Jacob pines for Marlena. They have three brief encounters, but it's not enough to satisfy him.
  • One night, he has a terrible nightmare about trying to rescue Queenie and being surrounded by dangerous animals.
  • The circus keeps on keepin' on. At one stop, all their alcohol is confiscated by the police. At another, people are angry because there's no fat lady. The circus loses money and has to travel fast.
  • More and more people are denied their paychecks: the circus has hit a new low.
  • Jacob and Walter are even more worried about Camel, and Walter's also worried about himself, and what will happen if they leave. Walter's options are limited.
  • Jacob meets Marlena for lunch, still trying to figure out a solution. But they've got another, bigger problem – Marlena is pregnant. Gasp!
  • Here's where it gets ugly. Al summons Jacob and says time's up; he's going to let August have Marlena back.
  • Jacob yells and protests but he can't do anything. Al's muscle guy, Earl, forces Jacob out.
  • That evening, Jacob is told to stay away from the show. Marlena and Rosie will be performing together. Marlena tells Jacob she'll be okay, and he hides. This is getting suspenseful.
  • While he's hiding, Jacob catches a peeping Tom. This forces him out of hiding and he sees that Rosie's not doing a good job in the act. There's nothing he can do to help, though.
  • Rosie ends the act abruptly by running out of the tent. Poor girl. August follows her and beats her, and when Marlena follows to try to protect Rosie, August grabs Marlena.
  • Jacob tries to intercede, but a guy named Blackie prevents him. Jacob has to watch helplessly. He struggles to help her but is beat over the head and loses consciousness.

Water for Elephants Chapter 21 Study Group

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