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The circus is a setting common to both the Iain Lawrence novel Ghost Boy and the 2011 film directed by Francis Lawrence Water for Elephants. The film and novel are similar in many ways. The circus during the Depression and the war provides and immediate similarity in the setting for both stories. Characters in both the film and the novel share similar traits and characteristics creating strong protagonists and antagonists.
These characters are faced with similar conflicts as they embark on their journeys as circus workers. The setting is the most prominent commonality between the novel and the film. The physical setting of the circus and the hardships that accompany this lifestyle are realities in both stories. Traveling with the circus in these Depression era stories created a strong mood of desperation and conflict. Hunter and Green’s traveling circus of sideshow “Freaks” in Ghost Boy and the Benzini brothers band of sickly animals and brutal owner who terrorizes them, present circus life in both stories a a challenging one.
This was an unforgiving environment offering no escape from the circumstances of circus life in these stories. Several characters from Water for Elephants and Ghost Boy have striking similarities. The protagonists from the movie and the novel are similar in many ways. Both Harold and Jacob are affected by very unlikely circumstances, that are out of their comprehension and grasp. Thus causing them to alter their decisions based on these unfortunate events. The characters Conrad from Ghost Boy and Rosy from Water for Elephants are the last hope for the resurrection of the circus.
The elephants both have strong bonds that others can’t decipher. Both elephants show love towards their trainers as they foresee their salvation. Conrad although a kind and loving elephant was murdered harshly in the end of Ghost Boy for trampling a sideshow act. In Water for Elephants Rosy passed away peacefully of old age. These two unique characters mirror each other when it comes to other’s needs. The characters in both stories had to face conflicts and consequences which coincided to reveal the similarities between the elements.
The main conflicts in the book and film are Person versus Self. Due to conditions at home Harold and Jacob were forced to leave. Jacob had to endure the loss of his parents and their fortune. Jacob’s father had allowed people to keep tabs on what they owe. When Jacob’s parents passed away the tabs were wiped clean and Jacob had no money and no where to go. This resulted in an inner debate within himself. Likewise, Harold who was continuously harassed, was forced with an inner controversy to stay or go.
All in all both characters had to face similar decisions which play a major in the unfolding of the rest of their stories. In spite of several similarities in elements between these stories, their plots remain independent of each other. However Ghost Boy and Water for Elephants closely resemble each other in terms of several elements. The setting of each story provides perhaps the closest comparison, but the characters and the conflicts they face make these two stories much more alike than different.