Sunday, October 11, 2009

BC Discussion ?s: Water for Elephants

1. In what ways do the chapters about the young Jacob contribute to a deeper understanding of the elderly Jacob's life, and vise versa?

2. What are the roles do faithfulness and loyalty play? In what ways does Gruen contrast the antagonisms and cruelties of circus life with the equally impressive loyalties and instances of caring?

3. Who did you, upon reading the prologue, think murdered August? What effect did that opening scene of chaos and murder have on your reception of the story that follows?

4. How would you expand upon Jacob's observation of August described as “gracious, charming, and mischievous”? Which situations in the novel reveal his true character?

5. How does Gruen contrast the worlds of reality and illusion in the novel? Is there anything wrong with pandering to people's need for illusion? Why do we crave the illusions that the circus represents? +/-

6. Jacob doesn’t like to look in the mirror because he doesn’t like to recognize himself as an old man. He says “When did I stop being me?" How would you answer that question for Jacob or any individual, or for yourself?

7. In what ways and to what degree do Uncle Al's maneuvers and practices regarding the defunct Fox Brothers circus reflect traditional American business practices?

8. How might we see Uncle Al's cutthroat behavior in the novel as "an indictment of a lifetime spent feigning emotions to make a buck"?

9. In the words of one reviewer, the novel "explores the pathetic grandeur of the Depression-era circus." In what ways and to what extent is this true?

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