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Henry James And The Beast In T

Essay, Research Paper

The Beast in the Jungle is a story that expresses tragic irony and great loss. Henry James commences his story by introducing two characters: John Marcher and May Bartram. The two meet at a mansion, after a ten-year separation. The mansion is filled with decadent art, antiques, and other priceless objects. John notices May initially, and he instantly senses a deep but misplace connection towards her. They finally engage in conversation and right away May knows exactly who John is, although John still can t place where he knows May. She reminds him about how and who introduced them to each other in Europe. May startles John, when she asks him if his obsession with a future catastrophe had come into realization. John, naturally, is completely taken back by such an intimate question. He had forgotten that he shared a very intimate secret of his with May. He has lived his life consumed, waiting for a horrific disaster to occur. John invites May to wait and watch with him (May being the only person who understands him); she accepts.

John and May’s friendship soon blossoms, and May attains a London apartment to be closer to John. It is never made clear if whether this is just a friendship or a romantic relationship. Regardless, years pass and soon they are old. May is diagnosed with a rare blood disease, which will end her life. John is grief stricken when he hearsthe news but he can’t help but feel that May is keeping a secret about his oncoming disaster. When May dies, all of the answers John was hoping she could answer die with her. John sinks into a depression and takes a year long trip around the world. When he returns to England, he visits the May’s resting place. As he stares at May’s tombstone, John begins to realize that he was deeply in love with May. Because of his obsession with this “disaster” he was unable to recognize this love. He realizes that this beast which sprang into his life, this disaster he waited for, was actually his beloved’s death. He realizes his mistakes and regrets not living his life to its fullest. He was so consumed by his obsession with catastrophe that his greatest mistake was losing the one thing that matter most. John, in the end, is alone.


The main theme or theory in James’ “Beast in the Jungle” is that life and love are not to be taken for granted. When we live only within ourselves, not sharing, not expressing our feelings, we become empty and sad individuals. Because John was living in constant fear, he never allowed himself to live and to love. When he realizes that May was the greatest thing he ever had, and never told her so, John regrets his mistakes. I assume James’ is trying to tell us that expressing and taking a chance is necessary, for a life of regret is the most painful but yet the preventable outcome.

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