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MonkeyNotes Study Guide/Summary-The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 2

Summary

May Bertram’s great-aunt dies. She inherits enough from her great-aunt’s complicated will to buy a house in London. Marcher is very happy that May can now have a house of her own. Marcher is an ‘unsettled’ person and May is his one and only confidante. He however feels that no woman would like to share his condition. So, there is no question of proposing marriage to May. With time, their meetings increase and their friendship grows. May does not criticize him in any way. She allows her associations with him to give shape and color to her own existence.

At this point, the reader notices that there is something about her, which she does not tell anyone, least of all Marcher. They both spend a lot of time together in London. Their conversations however are not of the common type. A stranger would wonder what they are talking about.


One Sunday afternoon, Marcher visits May on her birthday. The weather is foggy and gloomy. Today, as usual, he gives her nothing more than a small trinket, which has been very tastefully purchased. The trinket costs more than he can afford, but he buys it anyway. It is as though he is trying to prove to himself that he is not selfish. He tells May that he has immense regard for her. He tells May that he appreciates all that she has done for him. He wonders whether it is fair to have involved her so much in his life. So much, that she that she does not have time for anything else. May however has no such regret. She says that she has been ‘watching’ with him, watching for it to happen and that itself is absorption. He tells her that he is sorry that her curiosity is not being repaid. May tells him that now, more than ever, she is sure that her curiosity will be aptly repaid.

Marcher understands that he has no choice in regard to fate. One cannot change what is to happen. One is subject to a certain supreme law. May tells him that it ‘has’ come in its own form and shape. Marcher now suspects that she has begun to doubt that anything will happen. She denies that and asserts that her curiosity will be repaid too well.

Marcher and May, both become very quiet now. Marcher gets up and moves around the little drawing room, which he is familiar with. He has discussed the above-mentioned topic, so many times in this room. When May asks him whether he is afraid, Marcher reminds her that this is the question that she had asked him at Weatherend a long time ago. They have spoken little about it since then. Marcher now asserts that he is not afraid. May is of the opinion that this is because he has got used to it as he has been living with it for so long. Marcher now feels that he is courageous and heroic.

But then he wonders that, a man of courage always knows what he is afraid of or not afraid of. He however does not know any of this. The only thing that he is aware of is that, he is in ‘some kind’ of danger. Marcher now notices the strange expression on Marcher’s face. He accuses her of knowing something and deliberately keeping it from him. He tells her that her expression shows that she is afraid that he is going to find out the truth. She however, tells him that he will never find out.

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