Nightwood// Historical Timeline

“Nora robbed herself for everyone; incapable of giving herself warning, she was continually turning about to find herself diminished. Wandering people the world over found her profitable in that she could be sold for a price forever, for she carried her betrayal money in her own pocket”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 56.

Nora was a victim of her own passions and could be easily be used by those she loved. Her own self “diminished” through her tendency to give all of herself to others. The concept of offering oneself to others or being utilized by others to the extent of losing part of oneself is a common theme in the books we have read. In Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, when Janie is married to Jody, he controls her actions and at times denies her a voice by speaking for her. Through her love for him, she remains in the restrictive relationship, which diminishes part of Janie before she eventually speaks up for herself. In Anand’s Untouchable, Bakha experiences the same kind of diminishing of himself, though not through love or passion. He is however diminished by others’ utilization of him, since he the lowest of the lower-caste Indians and his actions are dictated by others. Clarissa, in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, spends the length of the novel planning a party to please other people and is a character whose actions cater to what she thinks others expect of her. In Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle, Marcher is a victim of his own passion for the unknown. His entire life is dedicated to his fear of the unknown, and consequently, part of himself is diminished.

The Beast in the Jungle

“He would have liked to invent something, get her to make-believe with him that some passage of a romantic or critical kind had originally occurred. He was really almost reaching out in imagination-as against time-for something that would do, and saying to himself that if it didn’t come this new incident would simply and rather awkwardly close. They would separate, and now for no second or for no third chance. They would have tried and not succeeded.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), pg. 449

This passage illustrates Marcher’s longing to connect with May, even if it’s by means of pretense. There’s a desperate quality to his musings in wanting to remain in the moment.

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.