Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

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Chapter 4 Summary

For the next forty-five minutes, Jacob guards Barbara’s door as she privately entertains men. When she is done, she comes outside and waves Jacob away, telling him that she is not giving any “freebies” tonight. Jacob returns to the cooch tent to help stack the chairs. Jacob looks over at the big top, but he does not want to risk getting snatched up for another job while trying to see the show.

He sits on the ground, and Camel comes up to him. They share a bottle of jake, and Camel says that he is getting too old to work for the circus. He has already moved down the ranks and is now just a ticket seller, but even this is too difficult now for Camel. The performers begin to change out of their costumes, and Jacob thinks they look glamorous even in plain clothes. Camel asks Jacob’s age and whether he is a college boy; he says that he has a son the same age. The music in the big top dies, and people begin to exit the tent. The workers are so fast they begin to dismantle the big top even before everyone has left. Camel then tells Jacob that life in a traveling circus is no kind of life for someone like Jacob, and he tells Jacob to go back home. But Jacob feels like he has no life back home.

As the people filter out of the circus exclaiming about the wonders they have seen, the ringmaster, Uncle Al—Alan Bunkel—parades through the crowd. Camel warns Jacob to never talk about Ringling Brothers in front of Uncle Al. Camel runs up to Uncle Al to try to put in a word for Jacob, but Uncle Al is swept up in the crowd. Later, Camel makes an agreement with Earl, who will now look after Jacob.

Earl sets Jacob up in a railcar, sharing a bunk with another man. Some of the men pray in Polish, and the train begins to move. Later in the evening, Earl comes to get Jacob and takes him to see Uncle Al, who by this point has had enough to drink to loosen him up but not enough to make him mean. Earl feigns roughness and drags Jacob into Uncle Al’s office. He tells Uncle Al that Jacob jumped the train and asks what he wants to do with him. Jacob admits he has never...

(The entire section is 613 words.)