The Beast In The Jungle

“He continued to attach his eyes to her, and with the sense that it was all beyond him, and that she was too, he would still have sharply challenged her, had he not felt it an abuse of her weakness to do more than take devoutly what she gave him, take it as hushed as to a revelation. If he did speak, it was out of the foreknowledge of his loneliness to come.”

“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. 231

The Beast ITn The Jungle

“But the devil in this was that the very basis itself put marrying out of the question. His conviction, his apprehension, his obsession, in short wasn’t a privilege he could invite a woman to share; and that consequence of it was precisely what was the matter with him.”

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

This passage seemed odd to me because he’s stating that he can’t burden a woman with the issues he deals with every day, and that’s why marriage isn’t in the cards for him. However, he does burden May with it as she already knows the secret. It seems like he’s making up excuses to be unhappy, or stressed.

The Beast in the Jungle

“She spoke it in a tone so special, in spite of her weakness, that he stared an instant—stared as if some light, hitherto hidden, had shimmered across his vision. Darkness again closed over it, but the gleam had already become for him an idea. ‘Because I haven’t the right——?’
‘Don’t know—when you needn’t,’ she mercifully urged. ‘You needn’t—for we shouldn’t.’
‘Shouldn’t?’ If he could but know what she meant!
‘No—it’s too much.’
‘Too much?’ he still asked—but with a mystification that was the next moment, of a sudden, to give way. Her words, if they meant something, affected him in this light—the light also of her wasted face—as meaning all, and the sense of what knowledge had been for herself came over him with a rush which broke through into a question. ‘Is it of that, then, you’re dying?’
She but watched him, gravely at first, as if to see, with this, where he was, and she might have seen something, or feared something, that moved her sympathy. ‘I would live for you still—if I could.’ Her eyes closed for a little, as if withdrawn into herself, she were, for a last time, trying. ‘But I can’t!’ she said as she raised them again to take leave of him.”

“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. 232-233

What is the function of the choppy, ambiguous dialogue preceding/during this passage, considering Marcher’s tragic realization? What is May trying to say to him here?


The Beast in the Jungle

‘…whose face, a reminder, yet not quite a remembrance…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…that the young woman herself had not lost the thread. She had not lost it, but she wouldn’t give it back to him, he saw, without some putting forth of his hand for it…’

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

This creative passage reminded me of how complex, and impressive, writing can be. The word choice and style took my breath away and, while not really reflecting Marchers’ character or mindset, really captured my attention and showed the true artistry of James.

The Beast in the Jungle

“It was really, in its effort against weakness, a generous assurance, and had the success of the impulse not, happily, been great, it would have touched him to pain more than to pleasure.  But the cold charm in her eyes had spread, as she hovered before him, to all the rest of her person, so that it was for the minute almost a recovery of youth.  He couldn’t pity her for that; he could only take her as she showed—as capable even yet of helping him.  It was as if, at the same time, her light might at any instant go out; wherefore he must make the most of it.  There passed before him with intensity the three or four things he wanted most to know; but the question that came of itself to his lips really covered the others.  “Then tell me if I shall consciously suffer.”

She promptly shook her head.  “Never!””

Shows James’s illustrious, pungently infused, realism style, while adding that little spark of fantasy or romance to his diction, as he asserted in “The Art of Fiction” contrary to Wildes, “All fantasy” moral code.

The Beast in The Jungle

“Marcher said to himself that he ought to have rendered her some service-saved her from a capsized boat in the bay, or at least recovered her dressing-bag, filched from her cab, in the streets of Naples, by a lazzarone with a stiletto. Or it would have been nice if he could have been taken by fever, alone in his hotel, and she could have come to look after him.”

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

This passage perfectly illustrates Marcher’s mind set about his life. It lacks the drama that he expected it to have.

The Beast in the Jungle

“They looked at each other as with the feeling of an occasion missed; the present one would have been so much better if the other, in the far distance, in the foreign land, hadn’t been so stupidly meagre.”

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

Narrator uses “far distance” and “foreign land” to describe the feeling of forgetting the past that seems physically far away. Marcher blames the situation for being uneventful and “meagre,” and believes that is the reason he cannot remember meeting May.

“The Beast in the Jungle.”

“What he had asked of her had been simply at first not to laugh at him. she had beautifully not done so for ten years, and she was not doing so now. So he had endless gratitude to make up. Only for that  he must see just how he had figured to her.”

Even after she knew this for so long, she never looked at him differently. She was even more easy going now than before and was still willing to be with him and around him.