In "Water for Elephants" should Marlena have stayed with August? Was it wrong of Marlena and Jacob to have sex while she was still married?
The answer to this is purely a matter of opinion on your part. It helps to look at the facts surrounding the situation, and your own personal feelings in regards to the moral implications involved as you form that opinion.
August, a lively and dynamic character, in fact, is a violent schizophrenic. His drastic mood shifts come without warning, abruptly, and his wife Marlena is usually the unfortunate victim, along with some helpless animals that end up in his path. When he is in a good mood, he is irrisistably charming, kind, and loving; these traits are what has kept Marlena with him for so long. However, when his mood shifts, it is extreme and frightening. Marlena, unaware of these things when she married him, realized quickly that she had gotten more than she bargained for.
So, does that justify adultery? Were there better courses of action that she could have taken and still achieved the same ends? Could she have gotten a divorce? Would August have granted her one safely, without threatening harm? Did their society condone divorce or separation? And, what role did Jacob play in the situation--should he have stayed away from Marlena? What accountability does he have? Did he tempt her unduly, or disrespect her wishes in any way?
I hope that all of these thoughts help you to start forming an opinion on the matter. It's a tricky situation, filled with gray areas that can be argued either way, so, good luck!
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