Water for Elephants Chapter 2 Summary
by Sara Gruen

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Chapter 2 Summary

Jacob flashes back to his life at twenty-three years of age. He is in a lecture hall at Cornell University and is sitting next to Catherine Hale. He has serious romantic feelings for Catherine, but she will not let him advance with her. Jacob laments the fact that he will graduate from veterinary school and join his father’s practice in Norwich still a virgin. Suddenly Dean Wilkins arrives in the lecture hall and has a private conversation with Professor McGovern. The dean then pulls Jacob out of the classroom and tells him that his parents have been involved in an automobile accident. Jacob wants the dean to give him the truth, and the dean tells him that both his parents died on impact.

Jacob returns home to identify the bodies. He is shocked by the wounds and bruises on his parents’ skin. He vomits in the room, and the chaplain asks him if there is anyone he can call. All Jacob’s family lives in Poland; in his grief, Jacob cannot think of any family friends to contact. Jacob goes back to his parents’ house and sees that his father has put up a new sign outside the veterinary practice: “E. Jankowski and Son—Doctors of Veterinary Medicine.” He looks around at all his parents’ belongings and considers the sudden nature of their death. Soon after, the ladies from the church auxiliary come to the house to care for Jacob. He is offered a room with a neighbor.

Two days after Jacob’s parents’ funeral, he is called to see a lawyer about his parents’ estate. Having seen the new sign, Jacob knows that his father was preparing to have him join his business. However, the lawyer informs Jacob that his father had not been taking monetary payment for his services. Times are hard economically, so Dr. Jankowski had been accepting barter payments. As a result, the bank now owns all their property and belongings. Jacob realizes that his parents had to take out a mortgage on their home to pay for his schooling. He does not know what to do.


(The entire section is 544 words.)