Theme Comparisons in Water for Elephants and a Long Way Gone

e Shaianth Sathiyanandan
Ms. Kovala
November 16th 2010
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Adapting and Self Worth are the Two Main Themes that coincide with the books

Many similarities and differences can be struck when comparing the two books A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen. One is about a young boy that escaped death from his home village, only to be cast into a position where young soldiers taking drugs are common. The other is about a man who had lost everything after the death of his parents, but comes to terms with himself while spending time in the Circus.

Firstly, In the book Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Ishmael had a loving family whom he loved. Then one fateful day, Ishmael and his brother, were at a nearby village doing a talent show, as their own village was being burnt to the ground. When they arrive in then next village they discover that the Revoloutionary Uniited Front has burnt their home village and were heading their way. They knew that if they went to the government for help they would be enrolled as soldiers. So, Ishmael(now 12 years old), ran with his little brother and friends into the forest to escape. On their way they witness brutal scenes of murder.
Additionally, they find villagers on the way which try to aid the boys but violence always finds them. One time, Ishmael had to run into the bushes alone without looking back for his brother. He never saw him after this. After, more and more encounters his friends started thinning out, until finally he arrives at a village to rest. He gets word that his family had been resting in a village above and over the mountain top. He scales it and looks over the mount with his friends only to find the burning ashes of a village. His family did not survive.
Finally, he gave in and joined the army. During his first battle a close friend of his, had died along side him to a rocket propelled grenade. Enraged he let his gun loose and killed his first man at the age of 11. Over the next two years he spent with the army and friends taking drugs, partaking in mass murders and watching Rambo movies. Until a group of UNICEF workers come to rehabilitate some boy soldiers. Ishmael was moved to a centre where his friends and himself were freed of the demons of addiction by a nurses compassion. Finally he heard the music of Bob Marley and remembered what life was like before all the violence and started to write his own music.
After, He then returns to his home country with his uncle only to be found by violence once again. He realizes that he cannot stay in Freetown, so he travels to the united States of America. When arriving he realizes that he will be alone in the world and is a long way from home. He says it will be alright though because at least he will never be a soldier again.

Similarly, In the book Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen, Jacob Janikowitz starts of in a nursing home, at the age of 93 years old, recalling the memories of himself earlier on. It starts of as himself at the age of 23 preparing for his final exams at the university as a veterinary student. Jacob??™s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. Jacob found out that his father had been treating animals for free, and was in debt because of it. He was also trying to mortgage the house as well as providing jacob with an Ivy League education. He has a breakdown and leaves school just short of graduation.
In the midst of the chaotic night he hops aboard a train hoping for it to take him far away. He shortly realizes that it was a circus train. When the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, learns that Jacob was a veterinarian he gets him to take care of the animals in the circus. This consequently leads Jacob to share quarters with a dwarf named Walter (who is known as Kinko to the circus) and his dog Queenie. After a couple of weeks he is asked to look at an old man by the name of Camel. Camel had been drinking a Jamaican extract for many years could not move his arms or legs. The leader of the circus, Uncle Al, Red lights people (throws them off the moving train) when he thinks that they are betraying him or if they are not of use. Fearing Camel being red lighted he hides him in Walters room.
After, he meets the head trainer, August, he is a brutal man who abuses the animals and the people around him. He married a beautiful young women named Marlena whom Jacob falls deeply in love with. He could not further his love because of Augusts jealousy and protectiveness. After a while August starts to suspect their love and beats them both. Marlena enraged starts to live in a hotel between shows instead of the tent. Uncle Al, then approaches Jacob, and says that August is a schizophrenic, he then gives him a deal. If Jacob does not reunite Marlena and August he Walter and Camel will get Red Lighted.
A few days later, after discovering that August has tried to see Marlena, Jacob visits her in her hotel room. Jacob and Marlena sleep together and then they declared their love for each other. Marlena soon returns to the circus to perform (and also to have secret meetings with Jacob), but refuses to have August near her because of the past. Uncle Al, becomes really mad after hearing the news that Marlena will not see August. Days later Marlena informs Jacob that she is pregnant.
One night Jacob, with the intent to kill August, jumps the cars of the train to August??™s room. He backs out after passing Walters car, and he went inside to find no-one. He finds out that Uncle Al had Red Lighted them and that Jacob was about to be too. After, a while some of the other circus acts that were Red Lighted come back and release all the animals, causing a huge stampede. In the midst, Jacob witnesses August being murdered by Rosie the elephant and Uncle Al also murdered. After, Jacob and Marlena begin their life together. It then ends with Jacob as a 93 year old, going to a circus with his new family.

When addressing the two books the two dominant themes within the books is Adaptability and Self-Worth. In both books, the main characters have to adapt to the various new environments they are thrown in and they both have different views on Self Worth.

In the book Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen, the theme which was picked up on was a sense of freedom. Jacob was at an old age retirement home, at the crisp age of 90 or 93. He felt that his age did not matter anymore, people looked at him the same way, they looked at him as if he was old. He was treated like a child. When he was younger, he was just one more exam away from becoming a veterinarian, but his parents had died. He lost everything and he began to look at life in a new perspective. The bank started to hinder Jacob a lot and wanted their money as in this article ???Having debt is a major obstacle to gaining fiscal freedom. If you have a lot of toxic debt, it??™s obvious that this is hindering your ability to save and get ahead.??? ( He had loans that needed to be paid by the bank and he learned to take care of himself. ???What if I want to fight it??? ???What if I come back and take over the practice and try to make the payments??? ( He did have an adventure but that only came after great realization of the fact that he was alone. One of the assistants closed the blinds on the windows for him, when in the retirement home. He felt that she was treating him like a child, and he did not like this. At the age of 93, Jacob was cranky and did not care for the women or her life, which is why he thought of bad things about her.
Also, In the circus the Elephant, Rosie. ???Rosie, the elephant referenced in Sara Gruens title, is a powerful symbol. More than just a performing animal, Rosie reflects the desperation of so many Americans during the Great Depression??? ( for the main character and a theme (freedom) for the book. At one point, after doing one show Rosie was tired and has a glass of water in front of her, for her efforts. It was a fairly small glass for a huge elephant. She saw a lemonade cup off to the distance and reached for it. As she was about to grab it August(head animal trainer) beat her trunk and Rosie for getting more than the glass of water. This shows that Rosie was trapped within the circus and bound by rules which she shouldnt have to abide by. Rosie is a symbol for Jacob in the sense that she is sensitive and has a great memory. Despite Jacob being 93 he still remembers the events in the circus as i it were yesterday. Rosie, and Jacob did not like the sense of false security that the circus was providing. They both seeked a way out and wanted freedom. Jacob in his old mind wanted his wife to take him away to the circus and Rosie, wanted a glass of lemonade which she found became very fond of.
This was the main difference in the book A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. Ishmael, was a young boy and definitely required the assistance and guidance that his parents had offered him. He never left the village that much, only on occasions for a festival etc, and never thought that something bad would happen to his village. He thought that he was free and could manage his life within the city. The villages would represent a cage which hold the children (birds). If the cage is not broken the birds will become part of the cage and will be like everyone else. It is not a good thing that the villages, were destroyed but it taught the boys and girls within he village that there is a whole new world out there and they could be free.

Additionally, both the main characters have to adapt to the new surroundings that they were thrown into. Jacob and Ishmael both start of with loving families that are taken away from them. Jacobs father and mother were taken by a car accident. Ishmael and his brother were in another village when his village was burnt to the ground. They then have to escape, although they escape by different means the idea is the same. Jacob escapes through a train and onto the circus. Ishmael runs with his brother and some of his friends into the jungle.
Then they both find temporary homes. Ishmael finds villages on the way and get aid. Jacob joins the circus and finds his peace with Marlena and the new elephant Rosie. A conflict arises. Ishmael had to leave his brother behind, and on the long trek one of his friends dies as they carry him to a nearby village. Jacob finds out that Marlena is married to a schizophrenic person that abuses animals and everyone around him, many of the circuses still commit animal abuse. Then their is a silver lining. Ishmael finds out that his family escaped the village and is living in a place close by. Jacob starts making progress with Marlena. Then a turn for the worse happens. Ishmael has to join the army because he has nothing left. Jacob couldnt see Marlena because she left the zoo and August. Finally, good things arrive. Jacob gets Marlena and they live a happy life together after escaping the circus. Ishmael also escapes the country he had grown up in(Sri Lanka or Sierra Leone) and writes songs about the past for a new future.
In the end, Jacob had to adapt and accept the fact that his parents had died. He did not take it so well, and he just wanted to get away so he got on a train that just happened to be a circus train. His new adventure threw things at him such as: the abuse of August which he had to tolerate for his new found friends and loves. Jacob was thrown into a new environment and had to adapt to it. The only thing similar was that he already had training in being a vet so, he knew what to do and help Rosie with the abuse that August was giving her. Similarly Ishmael had to deal with the fact that he might never see his family and the new environment that he was put through. His family was thought to have been along with the rubble that was his village but he later found out that they escaped and they were another village. He was excited and relived at the same time although it was only for a short time as he found out that that village had also been burned. He finally accepted that he was alone when he was rehabilitated and wrote the book detailing his life. “The human species today is a survivor of lots of different environmental changes,” ( which is why these main characters have survived throughout their own books.
In conclusion, both the main characters have survived harsh battles and had a taste of freedom. Fortunately in the end they both took a turn for the best and made it through their adventures victorious.

Works Cited

Newspaper Article
Morello, Lauren. “What Can Past Climate Change Reveal about Human Adaptation.”? How did historic climate change shape human evolution? . 5 March 2010: Print.

Braun, Gerry. “A Few Guidelines On Achieving Financial Independence.”? Direct News? 09.12.2010 , Print.
“Canadian finds Haitis 1804 declaration.???
CBC NewsApril 2, 2010, Print

Web Article
m173, . “In the book ” Water For Elephants”, and example a theme can be self worth. What are some examples of Jacob Jankowski showing self worth.” 02 Novemeber 2009. Online Posting to? Water for Elephants Group. Web. 19 Dec 2010. ]
Hyde, Susan. “Symbolism and Theme in Water for Elephants.”? Suite 101, 12 July 2008 . Web. 19 Dec 2010.


Pellerin, Phil. “Is Our Society Drunk On Freedom and Independence.”? Ezine Articles, n.d. Web. 19 Dec 2010.

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