“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea — something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…”
In an almost poetic manner, Marlow presents the basis for which conquerors wreck havoc on those they deem weaker than them. Their actions are based on an idea they have been ingrained with to follow so as not to scrutinize and keep at bay the dark truth lurking underneath.
“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. It wouldn’t have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, hanged; it was failure not to be anything.”
Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999)
I feel this quote is the epitome of all of the deathbed regrets that have ever been expressed: the regret of passivity over activity.
“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.