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Gruen has said that the backbone of her story parallels the biblical story of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. The unusual title comes from an incident at the beginning of the novel. Jacob mocks another resident at the nursing home who claims to have worked in the circus and carried water for the elephants. The circus train only carried a limited amount of water on board and elephants will drink at least twenty six to eighty gallons a day.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: Classroom Ideas
In a later flashback to Jacob's younger years, Jacob is brought to Uncle Al, the manager of the circus, who taunts him with, "You want to carry water for the elephants, I suppose? This novel won a number of awards and was nominated for a Quill Award for general fiction. It was a New York Times best-seller for twelve weeks in Engineering Mechanics M.
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