Tag Archives: beast in the jungle

The Beast in the Jungle

He had justified his fear and achieved his fate ; he had failed, with the last exactitude, of all he was to fail of, and a moan now rose to his lips as he remembered she had prayed he mightn’t know. This horror of waking – this was knowledge, knowledge under the breath of which the very tears in his eyes seemed to freeze. Through them, none the less, he tried to fix it and hold it ; he kept it there before him so that he might feel the pain. That at least, belated and bitter, had something of the taste of life. But the bitterness suddenly sickened him, and it was as if, horribly, he saw in the truth, in the cruelty of his image, what had been appointed and done. 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 and hideous, for the leap that was to settle him. His eyes darkened – it was close ; and, instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid it, he flung himself, on his face, on the tomb.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), p489-490

Understanding

He came back the next day, but she was then unable to see him, and as it was literally the first time this had occurred in the long stretch of their acquaintance he turned away, defeated and sore, almost angry – or feeling at least that such a break in their custom was really the beginning of the end – and wandered alone with his thoughts, especially with one of them that he was unable to keep down. She was dying, and he would lose her ; she was dying, and his life would end. He stopped in the park, into which he had passed, and stared before him at his recurrent doubt. Away from her the doubt pressed again ; in her presence he had believed her, but as he felt his forlornness he threw himself into the explanation that, nearest at hand, had  most of a miserable warmth for him and least of a cold torment. She had deceived him to save him – to put him off with something in which he should be able to rest. What could the thing that was to happen to him be, after all, but just this thing that had begun to happen ? Her dying, her death, his consequent solitude – that was what he had figured as the beast in the jungle, that was what had been in the lap of the gods.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, 1999), p477

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.  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; and he not only saw that, but saw several things more, things odd enough in the light of the fact that at the moment some accident of grouping brought them face to face he was still merely fumbling with the idea that any contact between them in the past would have had no importance.  If it had had no importance he scarcely knew why his actual impression of her should so seem to have so much; the answer to which, however, was that in such a life as they all appeared to be leading for the moment one could but take things as they came.”

Notes:  he has to make an effort, figuring out if meetings have an importance, shift to taking life as it comes, beginnings and continuations

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