Study Guide

Water for Elephants Chapter 4

By Sara Gruen

Chapter 4

  • Jacob's next job is to be the sentry (guard) while Barbara takes on her other job: being a prostitute. He has to listen outside while five men do their thing. Ugh.
  • Afterward, Barbara tells him to go away, so Jacob goes back to work with Cecil some more. (Relieved, much?)
  • As night falls, the circus is just finishing up. Jacob has a talk with Camel, who's in despair because he's aging out of the circus. He'd like to drink real booze, but Prohibition has limited his supply.
  • The two guys chat for a while as the show ends. They're pretty in tune with each other: Jacob realizes that Camel's unwell, and Camel realizes that there's a lot more to Jacob than the kid is letting on.
  • Camel tells Jacob he should go home if he can, but Jacob says he can't.
  • The show lets out, and Uncle Al, the ringmaster, passes them. Camel tries to get his attention, but it's no use. Camel is determined to try again later.
  • Just before he passes out drunk, Camel introduces Jacob to another guy named Earl. They all get back on the train, and Earl has to carry Camel on board. This guy's not in good shape.
  • Jacob has a hard time falling asleep in his new bed (on the train) – he's right smack dab in the middle of some other men he doesn't know. Doesn't sound too comfy.
  • In the middle of the night, Earl comes to get him and takes him to see Al.
  • Jacob realizes too late that Earl's plan is to present him as a lowlife who hopped on the train suddenly, rather than somebody who knows Camel. Earl roughs up Jacob and introduces him to Al.
  • The head honcho questions Jacob, who says he wants to get a job with the circus. He even praises the girl's horse performance, when in reality, he didn't see it.
  • Turns out the girl is Marlena: she has some connection to the man who's hanging out with Al, a guy names August.
  • The two men, Al and August, make fun of Jacob for being a mama's boy who's totally out of touch.
  • It seems like Al is really upset that the circus doesn't have any elephants. We would be, too. What's a circus without elephants?
  • They're impressed, though, when they find out that Jacob has been studying to be a vet at Cornell. They could really use a vet.
  • August wants to keep Jacob around because one of Marlena's horses isn't doing so well. Al says there's nowhere for Jacob to go, but August suggests he should go sleep with the horses, along with another circus guy, Kinko.
  • August takes Jacob to the new quarters – after an adventurous detour – and introduces him to Kinko. Immediately, Jacob and Kinko get off on the wrong foot. Uh oh.
  • Kinko, a dwarf, is not interested in getting to know Jacob. And August just makes it worse by praising Jacob and revealing that he doesn't like Kinko.
  • Oh, and Kinko's little dog doesn't like Jacob either. He just can't win.
  • That night, Jacob has uneasy dreams: his dead mother turns into Barbara, taking her clothes off at the circus. Wow, talk about disturbing.

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