Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

Start Free Trial

Is it acceptable or exploitative for the circus in Water for Elephants to hire "freaks" for entertainment?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I suppose the answer to this question depends on one's moral values and the time period.  In the context of the novel, it does not appear that the circus workers feel exploited because they are deemed "freaks" by society.  On the contrary, when Jacob gets Marlena pregnant and realizes that he must leave the circus, Walter is upset because he knows that he will likely not find a job somewhere else.  The circus is somewhere that he can make a living for himself.  But the story takes place around the Depression era, so values and opportunities depend on that historical context.  Today, we might consider that these practices exploit people because they are physically different from the majority.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial