Water for Elephants:  What factors are responsible for Marlena to have met August and married such a violent man?Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, the character Marlena has grown very fond of Jacob by Chapter 17.  As he visits in her dressing tent while August is absent, Marlena tells Jacob that she met August when she was seventeen; during her seventeenth year her parents repeatedly invited young men to the house.  When she learned that her parents planned for her to marry a middle-aged banker, Marlena began to consider running away to the circus as an escape.  But, when she visited the Benzini Circus that came to her town, Marlena was intrigued with the gypsy-like world and August, who stood by the animal menagerie.

Marlena further tells Jacob that she became infatuated with August who was "charming and relentless."  When he asked her to marry him, she did, fleeing the middle-aged bachelor suitor.  From Marlena Jacob has come to understand that August is a man with a split personality. If he is in a good mood, August is capable of lavishing gifts on his favorite people, making them comfortable and at ease. But if he is not, he is capable of nearly anything.