Henry James' Beast in the Jungle

Topics: Love, Destiny Pages: 4 (1270 words) Published: May 6, 2005
"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...
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