Heart of Darkness

“Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild- and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country.”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 121.

I love how Conrad depicts the sound of drums in the night, as ubiquitous as the chirp of crickets back home. The comparison to the sound of bells in a Christian country provides a human connection. While bells may be the cultural norm in Europe to announce the time, celebrate a wedding, or mourn a death, drums could be used for similar occasions by the Africans. It turns an habitual sound into a kinship which is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

Heart of Darkness

“‘You are of the new gang–the gang of virtue. The same people who sent him specially also recommended you. Oh, don’t say no. I’ve my own eyes to trust.’ Light dawned upon me. My dear aunt’s influential acquaintances were producing an unexpected effect upon that young man. I nearly burst into a laugh. ‘Do you read the Company’s confidential correspondence?’ I asked. He hadn’t a word to say. It was great fun.”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 127.

This passage made me laugh and interested me for two reasons. One, you can really see the type of person Marlow is because of his sense of humor that is called upon here. It is kind of a witty, mischievous humor at the sake of this brick-making man. It was interesting also to see the effect one person had on the opinions everyone else. The boss was praised and used as a judgment of others. Because Marlow came from the same place, he must also be as good as Mr. Kurtz. It is quite interesting.

Heart of Darkness

“Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat like a sluggish bettle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing that feeling.”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 138.

The language implies that everyone was very aware of the fact that they were very small to the rest of the world and knew they were neither alone, nor the center of everything.

Heart of Darkness

“These round knobs were not ornamental, but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing–food for thought and also for the vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascent the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house.”

James Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York, Oxford University Press: 2008), 164.

Conrad uses excess fillers that undermine and delay the fact that Marlow is describing severed heads on stakes, not decorations. Through Marlow’s narration, Conrad describes something grotesque and inhumane as if he’s critiquing someone’s home decor.

Heart of Darkness

“The horror! The horror!”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 178.

In reference to the horrors that Kurtz experienced in Africa. This one quote encompasses the entire plot and in a sense makes the reader realize the same truth about life that Kurtz has.

The heart of Darkness

“Black shapes, crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die.”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 118.

Marlow can’t exactly make out the bodies, and realizes that this is the place where the diseased come to die.

Commonplace–James

It wouldn’t have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, hanged; it was failure not to be anything. And so, in the dark valley into which his path had taken its unlooked-for twist, he wondered not a little as he groped. He didn’t care what awful crash might overtake him, with what ignominy or what monstrosity he might yet be associated–since he wasn’t, after all, too utterly old to suffer–if it would only be decently proportionate to the posture he had kept, all his life, in the promised presence of it. He had but one desire left–that he shouldn’t be “sold.”

How might Marcher feel that he as it risk for being “sold?” Why the reliance on May to help him through his suffering?; he seems selfish in his own suffering

Henry James. “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 470.

The Beast in the Jungle

“The definite point was the inevitable spring of the creature; and the definite lesson from that was that a man of feeling didn’t cause himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt. Such was the image under which he had ended by figuring his life.” (204)

The emotion full of despair that pervades his logic and thoughts at this point of the story stood out to me.

James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903. Internet Archive.http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 204

The Beast in the Jungle

“He came back the next day, but she was then unable to see him, and as it was literally the first time this had occurred in the long stretch of their acquaintance he turned away, defeated and sore, almost angry—or feeling at least that such a break in their custom was really the beginning of the end—and wandered alone with his thoughts, especially with the one he was least able to keep down.  She was dying and he would lose her; she was dying and his life would end.”

This, especially the second sentence, it’s really heartbreaking.  Everything is on the table here, his emotions, the scenario and the thoughts going through his head.

James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle. London: Martin Secker, 1915. Print.

The Beast in the Jungle

Something or other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and turns of the months and the years, like a crouching beast in the jungle. It signified little whether the crouching beast were destined to slay him or be slain. The definite point was the inevitable spring of the creature, and the definite lesson from that was that a man of feeling didn’t cause himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt.

Title: The Beast in the Jungle Author: Henry James Release Date: February 6, 2005 [eBook #1093] [This file last updated November 30, 2010]

 

This is a representation of the thoughts of Marcher, who seems to be saying the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Life may bring him happiness or despair (slay or be slain). He does not want to marry Mae and uses this as an excuse as to why he can not. Mostly because he does not want to add to the strife she will already experience. This is something that is common in romantic endeavors and the hunt happens to us all.

The Beast in the Jungle

“It was always open to him to accuse her of seeing him but as the most harmless of maniacs, and this, in the long run–since it covered so much ground–was his easiest description of their friendship. He had a screw loose for her, but she liked him in spite of it, and was practically, against the rest of the world, his kind, wise keeper, unremunerated, but fairly amused and, in the absence of other near ties, not disreputably occupied” (206).

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays(New York: Library of America, 1999).

Labeling a self-proclaimed maniac as harmless.

“The Beast in the Jungle”

“Since it was in Time that he was to have met his fate, so it was in Time that his fate was to have acted; and as he walked up to the sense of no longer being young, which was exactly the sense of being stale, just as that, in turn, was the sense of being weak, he walked up to another matter beside. It all hung together; they were subject, he and the great vagueness, to an equal and indivisible law. When the possibilities themselves had, accordingly, turned stale, when the secret of the gods had grown faint, had perhaps even quite evaporated, that, and that only was failure.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 469-470.

It is interesting to see how Marcher views growing old. If he is to grow old he loses his purpose and suddenly becomes weak. Failure seems to be his biggest concern. I also noticed how ‘time’ had been capitalized but ‘gods’ had not been. Readers can see where his concerns lie in this passage.

The Beast in the Jungle

“Why, the capacity to spend endless time with dull women- to spend it, I won’t say without being bored, but without minding that they are, without being driven off at a tangent by it; which comes to the same thing.  I am your dull woman, a part of the daily bread for which you pray at church.  That covers your tracks more than anything.”

“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 208-209

I found this passage funny, how women are part of men’s daily penance and yet “save” men or cover up their tracks.

The Beast in the Jungle

The escape would have been to love her; then, then he would have lived. She had lived- who could say now with what passion?-since she had loved him for himself; whereas he had never thought of her (ah, how hugely it glared at him!) but in the chill of his egotism and the light of her use. Her spoken words came back to him, and the chain stretched and stretched. The beast had lurked indeed, and the beast, at its hour, had sprung; it had sprung in the twilight o f the cold April when, pale, ill, wasted, but all beautiful, and perhaps even then recoverable, she had risen from her chair to stand before him and let him imaginably guess; it had sprung as he didn’t guess; it had sprung as she hopelessly turned from him, and the mark, by the time he left her, had fallen where it was to fall. He had justified his fear and achieved his fate; he had failed, with the last exactitude, of all he was to fail of; and a moan now rose to his lips as he remembered she had prayed he mightn’t know. This horror of waking –this was knowledge, knowledge under the breath of which the very tears in his eyes seemed to freeze.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 489.

The beast as regret or missed opportunity? Loving as living. Knowledge as powerful as ignorance.

Commonplace The Beast in the Jungle

“May Bertram, whose face, a reminder, yet not quite a remembrance,”

I like this passage because it describes the woman, May Bertram, as average but it does it so uniquely. Although her face might not memorable the way it is described is.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 446.

 

“It’s dreadful to bring a person back, at any time, to what he was ten years before.”

This passage stuck out to me because it is such a simple statement made by the woman but is still a vivid look into how Henry James probably viewed the past.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 450.

 

“At this, for a minute, their lightness gave way to their gravity; it was as if the long look they exchanged held them together.”

Their lightness giving way to their gravity sort of seems to contradict itself since gravity is usually held by things with extremely large masses and not by any means considered light. This leads you to the conclusion the gravity is being used in the context of “the gravity of the situation” which is appropriate because John Marcher seems to be talking about watching some coming apocalypse.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 454.

 

“The real form it should have taken on the basis that stood out large was the form of their marrying. But the devil in this was that the very basis itself put marrying out of the question. His condition he could invite a woman to share; and that consequence of it was precisely what was the matter with him.”

James is being so elusive with what the condition is. He keeps eluding and giving isolated hints while remaining vague.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 457.

 

“a man of feeling didn’t cause himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt.”

This passage is talking about the metaphor made a sentence or two prior about the beast in the jungle waiting to slay or be slain. It caught my attention because while the beast’s actions are not definite yet, the lady is on a tiger-hunt. She is out to slay.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 458.

 

“What’s the most inveterate mark of men in general? Why, the capacity to spend endless time with dull women”

Sounds like a very classical thing to say. I mean classical in the Jane Austen era sense.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 461.

 

“He still, however wondered. ‘But doesn’t the man of courage know what he’s afraid of—or not afraid of? I don’t know that, you see. I don’t focus it. I can’t name it. I only know I’m exposed.’”

So he’s afraid but of something but he doesn’t know what yet he knows what’s going to happen. He also refuses to tell her what it is because according to her he’s afraid she’ll find out what’s going to happen. So he’s not afraid of what’s coming but is afraid that she’ll find out how it ends?

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York : Library of America, 1999), 464.

The Beast in the Jungle

“It had not taken them many minutes, after all , to put down on the table, like the cards of a pack, those that constituted their respective hands; only what came out was that the pack was unfortunately not perfect-that the past, invoked, invited, encouraged, could give them, naturally, no more than it had.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 448.

This passage screams modern as it has an uncanny resemblance to the idiom of showing one’s hand, and has been used in everything from novels to movies, and is still being used today.  The hand that’s shown is saying to each other exactly what they remember of each other.

The Beast in the Jungle

“One discussed, of course, like a hunchback, for there was always a hunchback face. That remained, and she was watching him; but people watched best, as a general thing, in silence, so that such would be predominantly the manner of their vigil. Yet he didn’t want, at the same time, to be solemn; solemn was what he imagined he too much tended to be with other people. The thing to be, with the one person who knew was easy and natural, to the make the reference rather than be seeming to avoid it..”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays(New York: Library of America, 1999). 458

Marcher hides behind the truth of knowing. However, it is interesting that when he finally finds May who knows the truth, he is craving the discussion of it and its almost like he yearns to set it free. May’s silence of the “beast” was like the people of a village watching the face of a hunchback man without saying a word about the clear hunch on his back.

The Beast in the Jungle

“He saw the Jungle of his life and saw the lurking Beast; then, while he looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, huge ad hideous, for the leap that was to settle him”.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays(New York: Library of America, 1999).

This was the perfect ending to this short-story because it tied together the entire plot and the title- everything made sense.