The Beast in the Jungle

“So, while they grew older together, she did watch with him, and so she let this association give shape and colour to her own existence.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999). 460

As in the details in the beginning of the story, this sentence give the same feel about her life that the reader felt about the house that was described, as he now completes her life.

The Beast in the Jungle

“It affected him as the sequel of something of which he had lost the beginning. He knew it, and for the time quite welcomed it, as a continuation, but didn’t know what it continued, which was an interest, or an amusement, the greater as he was also somehow aware–yet without a direct sign from her–that the young woman herself had not lost the thread”.

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

Brilliant way of describing the sensation of that moment in which we all try to recall how we know a person when meeting them for the first time after several years (or ten).

“The Beast in the Jungle”

“What it presently came to in truth was that poor Marcher waded through his beaten grass, where no life stirred, where no breath sounded, where no evil eye seemed to gleam from a possible lair, very much as if vaguely looking for the Beast, and still more as if missing it.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in The Better Sort. (New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive., 235.

James presents the “ordinary” as more “extraordinary” by framing Marcher’s search for meaning or purpose as an unsuccessful “hunt” in a seemingly empty jungle.  The “Beast”‘s absence, rather than its presence, becomes the problem here–which is a bit misleading/interesting considering all the attention James gave to the mystery of what Marcher’s “Beast” would be.

Sample Commonplace

He stayed away, after this, for a year; he visited the depths of Asia, spending himself on scenes of romantic interest, of superlative sanctity; but what was present to him everywhere was that for a man who had known what he had known the world was vulgar and vain.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 484.

“Vulgar” as the problem. Why “romantic”?