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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

Notes

As the chapter opens, the scene of action is May’s house, from where it moves to the national gallery and then to South Kensington. The setting again shifts back to May’s house. In the beginning of this chapter, the readers are informed about the death of May’s great-aunt. The readers also learn that, May has inherited enough from her great-aunt to enable her to have a house of her own. This makes Marcher very happy. One gets the impression that things are going to be better for both of them. Though Marcher wishes well for May, there is a barrier between the two. Marcher is unable to communicate his feeling to her.

Marcher considers himself to be an ‘unsettled’ person. He knows that he is confused and in a state of mind which a woman would not like to share. Therefore, he never proposes marriage to May although they like each other very much. With time, their friendship grows. They never criticize each other and accept each other for what they are.


Marcher differs from an average person in the intensity of his consciousness. He actually has a lot of intuition, though his apprehension is prima facie neurotic. When May talks about the fact that fate has already come, she is probably pointing out Marcher’s fate that, he cannot love. Thus the thing he fears has already happened. "It" is his failure to love, reciprocate to love, and thereby intensify love. Marcher’s failure is a part of mankind’s general failure. It is the failure to communicate. For many years two good and sensitive people have been meeting each other. They talk at length with each other, but here is no deep communication between them. The tragedy of humanity is that, men and women are not able to communicate to each other whatever little understanding they have of themselves.

Marcher realizes that his conviction about the strange happening may appear perverse and ridiculous to others; but personally he feels that he is a unique person chosen for such a happening. However, at the same time, he is afraid of it. It is as though some beast is lurking, and it may jump anytime.

When Marcher goes to greet May on her birthday, the weather is foggy and gloomy. The depressive gloom of the weather outside is analogous to the gloom and depression that exists within Marcher himself. In Shakespeare’s plays gloomy and bad weather often precede a tragic event. Henry James himself disliked the fog and smoke in London, although he liked the other aspects of London.

Marcher is grateful to May for all that she has done for him. His gratitude and appreciation for her friendship is understandable. But his doubt as to whether it is fair to get her involved and interested in him shows that he does not feel worthy of her. He seems to have tremendous guilt-feelings and inferiority complex.

Marcher is doubtful about his own courage. Though he says that he is not afraid, he immediately says that a courageous man should know what he is afraid of and what he is not afraid of. He however does not know this. So, on one hand the reader can see that he wishes to be fearless and courageous, but, on the other hand, fear still lurks in him. Therefore, one can conclude here is that, he has just become accustomed to the apprehension of danger.

The chapter ends on a note of mystery. The expression on May’s face shows that she knows something, which Marcher does not know. When he points this out to her, she is embarrassed. It is as though he has crossed his limit or the mystical line that she has drawn around herself. Yet, she emphasizes that he will never find out. The reader is left wondering about what is it that she knows and Marcher does not know. The reader’s interest is enhanced, and he wishes to read further to find out more about it.

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