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

CHAPTER 1

Notes

In this chapter, the readers are introduced to the two main characters of the novella. The readers come to know that John Marcher is a lonely person, who feels out of place when he is amidst a crowd of people. This is because he feels that he is quite different from them. Therefore he prefers to move about alone, rather than be in their company. Marcher represents the isolation of the individuals in big cities. Even now many people in big cities are isolated and very lonely. The Beast In The Jungle is basically a tale of two people, John Marcher and May Bertram. Marcherís inability to understand and reach out for love is seen in the first chapter.

The house known as Weatherend is vividly described in this chapter. The author describes the beauty of the place, where the house is situated. The author also gives a very impressive picture of the wonderful things in the house. When the novella opens, there are a number of visitors in the house. Some of them know too much about the house whereas the others seem to know nothing. As the chapter progresses, the readers are introduced to May Bertram, the heroine of the novel. She stays in Weatherend house and renders services in return for the security that she gets in the house. Thus the readers can presume that she too is a lonely person with no close relatives of her own.


Marcherís confused state of mind is seen when he does not give an accurate account of his and Mayís earlier meeting. He notices that May has Ďnot lost the thread,í in regard to their earlier meeting. Thread is used as a metaphor. It reminds one of, stitching together and thereby binding something. Here, Marcher has to remember the past and bind it to the present. He however is unable to do so. May Bertram does not give him the thread easily. In other words, she does not readily help him to link the past with the present, unless he directly or indirectly asks for help.

A curious relationship between May and Marcher is depicted in this chapter. Though they talk to each, they cannot freely and openly tell each other about their feelings. This could mean a lack of interest at the subconscious level. This is also indicated in the fact that, they have not made any attempt to meet each other for about ten years. This is even more obvious because, this has happened even though they have common acquaintances. However his desire that he could have helped her in some way or his desire that she could have done something for him, shows his regret at the fact that their relationship has not been nurtured.

Marcher does not want this meeting with May to end without a progress in their relationship. He feels that they will not get another chance. One can see here that Marcher is a very lonely and insecure person. He is not happy with the kind of life that he has had so far. He regrets the things that he has missed in his life. Marcher is now growing older and, like many other people, he feels that something has been continually slipping from his hands. Some brush the feeling aside and carry on with their normal activities. Others are overpowered by it and suffer intensely being unable to live life to the fullest. The feeling of fear is a universal feeling, although it varies in extent from person to person. This feeling is expressed in the novella right from chapter 1.

Mayís insight into Marcherís character is seen when she asks him whether he is afraid of the danger of falling in love. She further asks him whether he has been in love. Marcher answers in the affirmative and further admits that it has not been overwhelming. May tells him that then it hadnít been love. Thus her idea is that there cannot be love until it is intense and overwhelming.

Marcherís apprehension continues. He is even sure that the catastrophe is likely to happen to May rather than to him. This is an intuition, rather than a mere neurotic feeling, because in the later chapters, May falls ill and dies. Therefore the ĎItí that he is so afraid of happens to May and Marcher suffers tremendous agony. Marcher believes that there is something wrong with his thinking. He even asks May whether she considers him to be a harmless lunatic. Actually, he seems to have some kind of premonition about the forthcoming catastrophe by some sort of a sixth sense. However, one cannot deny that Marcher is intensely lonely and insecure. He belongs to that category of people who have loneliness and insecurity ingrained in their psyche. Psychoanalysts would assign this to early upbringing, and search for its roots in the personís infancy.

Henry James has a tremendous insight into the character of Marcher. This comes partly from the strange pattern of his own life. One realizes from the very first chapter that James is not merely expressing the loneliness of Marcher, but a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Therefore its significance is universal. The reader, at this point, begins to identify with Marcher.

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