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Marlena, The Star Of The Show

1139 words - 5 pages

In America, it was not until the late 1920's, that the 19th amendment was passed to give women their right to vote. This was also the beginning of the Great Depression that overwhelmed America with economic crisis ultimately leading to poverty. To attend the circus in the 1930's was a privilege, as television and digital media did not exist around this time and ticket holders were only permitted in. The circus was a rare form of entertainment allowing many to escape from reality, however, In Sarah Gruen's romantic novel Water for Elephants, Marlena, a rebellious showgirl of the circus, displays uncommon characteristics of dominance, brevity and independence for a woman of the 1930's. "A woman's life and a man’s life in the 1930’s was very stereotypical. And very different."(Gender Roles of the 1930's) Marlena's beauty and stunts involving an elephant named Rosie and a few horses, give her the title of the main attraction of the circus, which ultimately leads to Jacob Jankowski, the protagonist, falling deeply in love with her.
In the beginning of the novel, Marlena keeps her distance from Jacob, as she struggles to fight her feelings knowing she has taken vows to her current husband, August. Jacob and Marlena flirt around each other for a couple of chapters before finally submitting to their feelings, however, it is Marlena that instigates their relationship. In their intimate moments, Jacob is left feeling vulnerable after Marlena concedes him to say he loves her first, giving her control of the moment. She also takes the lead in unclothing Jacob first, permitting him to be with her romantically and encouraging it. She is her own woman and uses her sexuality as a form of power over Jacob; she decides for herself who she wants to be with. Although she is legally committed to August, she is in love with Jacob, however, this does not stop her from continuing a relationship with him. Marlena takes control of her life, disregarding others from her decisions and does not let legal restraints keep her from the person she truly wants to be with.
Soon after, August takes notice and develops a strong jealousy of the way Jacob and Marlena behave towards each other eventually leading him to assaulting them both. Thus, Marlena becomes the victim of Augusts' violent, domestic abuse. Strong-headed, she declares to not put up with the abuse and runs away to a nearby hotel. Even after August pleads for her to take him back, Marlena stands firm by her decision and refuses to return to him. Marlena is a strong woman because "Some women remain emotionally and/or economically dependent on the batterer despite the fact that she faces continued abuse if she stays with him." (Domestic Violence) However, Jacob takes a stand in the abuse and says he will "kill him" if he to attempts to physically harm her again. However, Marlena replies "If he does it again, you won't have to," insisting she can take matters into her own hands and proving she has the courage to do...

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