Henry James Beast In The Jungle Essay

This essay has a total of 1294 words and 5 pages.

Henry James Beast In The Jungle

"If Only I Had Known"
Henry James always managed to keep certain themes in his works similar. The one that
usually stands out most is his literary battles between American and European customs.
This is especially apparent in three of his other works, Daisy Miller: A Study, Roderick
Hudson, and The Portrait Of A Lady. However, in his short story, The Beast In The Jungle,
there is another theme that takes center stage. That theme is fate; moreover, the failure
to control that fate.

In The Beast In The Jungle, we are introduced to John Marcher, one of the main characters.
Immediately afterwards, we meet May Bartram, someone he had met almost ten years prior in
Naples, Italy, although he had accidentally thought it to be Rome. The two are getting
along splendidly, in a flirtatious way, leaving the reader to wonder about the future of
this would-be couple. However, it is then that we find out what eventually kills the hopes
of any kind of romantic connection, as May recalls John's special holdup:

You said you had had from your earliest time, as the deepest thing within you, the sense
of being kept for something rare and strange, possibly prodigious and terrible, that was
sooner or later to happen to you, that you had in your bones the foreboding and the
conviction of, and that would perhaps overwhelm you (TBITJ, 338).

Marcher believes that he is fated to experience something but he is not sure what it is
that he is waiting for. May probes deeper, possibly revealing something about herself and
her desire for a connection, asking, "Isn't what you describe perhaps but the
expectation--or at any rate the sense of danger, familiar to so many people--of falling in
love?" (TBITJ, 339). He talks about a love that he had but that it was not this monumental
thing that she talks of. She replies, saying, "Then it hasn't been love" (TBITJ, 338).

This whole conversation has been one flirtatious period of time. However, it quickly turns
back to the topic of his fate, cutting short any additional talk of love, possibly leading
somewhere. This was a missed opportunity for the both of them because of his obsession
with the mysterious destiny. The discussion ends with her promising to "watch with [him]"
(TBITJ, 340). And yet, the reason that she will see him again is not to pursue any sort of
normal relationship. It is simply the desire to be there when whatever happens to him
occurs.

Later on in the story, he meets up with her on her birthday, bringing with him a "small
trinket" (TBITJ, 344). He calls it a "customary offering, having known her now long enough
to have established a hundred small traditions" (TBITJ, 344). Clearly, they have had
contact for an extended period of time and yet, Marcher stays at arm's length from her,
not willing to fall in love because of his supposed fate. They discuss some more about his
situation and the guilt he feels for her, wondering if she is wasting her time watching
over him. "I sometimes ask myself if it's quite fair. Fair I mean to have so involved
and--since one may say it--interested you. I almost feel as if you hadn't really had time
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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