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MonkeyNotes Study Guide/Summary-The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James
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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)

The Beast In The Jungle is a tale of two people, May Bertram and John Marcher. John Marcher is a man who expects some rare and prodigious fate to befall him. He eventually discovers that he has already suffered his fate.

In Chapter 1, the reader is introduced to May and Marcher who are the most important characters in the novella. After many years they meet at Weatherend, which is an English country house. May is now living with her great-aunt. In return for security, she renders certain services. There are other guests in Weatherend. John Marcher however remains aloof and does not mix with them. His apprehensions are seen in the later part of this chapter.

In Chapter 2, the reader learns that the great-aunt is dead. May has inherited enough from her complicated will to own a small house in London. The meetings between May and Marcher increase. However there is no deep involvement.


In Chapter 3 the reader comes to know that May suffers from some disorder in her blood. With time, her health continues to deteriorate. The meetings between Marcher and May however continue. Marcher, in the meantime, continues to be haunted by the idea that he has been singled out for an extraordinary visitation. This eventually becomes a compulsive fantasy for him. Marcherís obsessive fantasy and Mayís ill health continue through Chapter 4, as May moves closer to her death. Mayís house now gives the impression as though everything has been wound up. Marcherís fantasy continues to generate the powerful image of a beast lying in wait for him amidst the twists and turns of his life. Marcher waits for his special fate, but at the same time, he is also afraid of it. He feels that he is not the type of man with whom any woman would like to share her life.

May dies in Chapter 5. Thus, Marcher loses his only confidante and friend. Lonely and insecure, he wishes to go away from London. Before leaving London, he visits Mayís grave.

In Chapter 6, the readers come to know about Marcherís visit to the interiors of Asia. He visits places of religious and historical importance. He is not really satisfied or at peace with himself. He realizes that along with everything else, he has lost his distinction too.

Marcher returns to London. He again visits the cemetery where May is buried. A little distance away from Mayís grave a middle-aged man stands mourning for some dear one. Marcher notices the passion that the man feels for his dear departed and a certain passion wakes in him too. Along with the passion, he also sees the jungle of his life and the beast. His eyes darken and he instinctively turns in his hallucination to avoid it. He flings himself Ďon his face on the tomb,í as through he is sub- consciously still seeking security from May.

Through Marcherís doom, Henry James has summed up the predicament of all those figures of his imagination, who forfeit their allotted share of experience, because of their excessive pride, delicacy and rationality. Marcher suffers largely by not responding to Mayís affection in an appropriate manner.

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