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MonkeyNotes Study Guide/Summary-The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James
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Marcher visits May regularly and they often go to the Opera together. After returning from the opera, Marcher has his supper at May's house. During these times, there is no talk of Marcher's apprehension. One day, he reminds her of the question that he had asked her on her last birthday. He had asked her about what is it that saves her. What he had meant at that time was, what is it that saves her from appearing different from the others. It could also mean how she has escaped an alliance with him.

May tells Marcher that if he has had his woman, she has had her man, meaning that they both have had their share of relationships. Marcher is grateful that she helps him to pass off like any other man. He hopes that he can repay her in some way.

Marcher again relapses into thinking that May knows something that is very bad, and therefore she does not wish to tell him. Eventually, he begins to feel a dread growing within him. It is the fear that he may lose her because of some catastrophe. The reason why this fear develops in Marcher is because he has come to realize that may is very useful to him and also because he has begun to notice some kind of uncertainty in May's health. One day May confesses to Marcher, her fear of a deep disorder in her blood. He is shocked and imagines disastrous consequences. Above all, he thinks of her peril as a direct menace to himself. His prime concern is about the loss she may suffer. He wonders if she will die before knowing and before seeing, the 'special' fate that is in store for him. However, he does not put such a question to her. He realizes that it would be brutal to ask her such a question in the early stages of her trouble.

Marcher visits May regularly but now she does not go out with him. They used to go out and visit different places together. There is hardly any place in London, which they have not visited. As Marcher goes to visit May one day, he realizes that she now looks older. He cannot bear to see her pass away from him. The idea that she has been waiting in vain to see his 'special' fate depresses him. The intensity of his sorrow grows with the gravity of her condition. He wonders whether she 'knew' about her impending death.

Marcher thinks about failure. 'It wouldn't have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonored, pilloried, hanged. It was a failure not to be anything.' He is helpless and gropes in darkness that fate has bestowed on him. He is not worried about what crash, what monstrosity he might be subject to. He has only one desire left that he shouldn't have been 'sold.'


The chapter begins on a happy note. The setting of this chapter is in May's house. The readers get a feeling that the relationship between Marcher and May is improving from the fact that they spend a lot of time together. They go out to different places, including operas. There is no talk about Marcher's fear that something mysterious is to happen. Marcher is thankful to May because she does not make him feel that he is extraordinary. This shows that although Marcher considers himself to be different, he would like to be one among the crowd. This idea is intensified later in the chapter, when he says that his failure is that he is a nobody. He would not mind belonging to the disreputed rung of the society like the dishonored, bankrupt, pilloried and hanged. He admires the fact that May is saved from appearing different from other human beings. He feels ashamed at being different from others but cannot avoid being so.

Although Marcher has not been talking about his apprehension, he has not totally overcome it. Moreover, May's illness has increased his fear that a catastrophe may befall and he may lose his one and only friend and confidante. He has come to know that May is suffering from a blood disorder, as if as a sequence to his thinking which may appear morbid.

Henry James ambiguously describes May's condition as, 'a deep disorder in her blood.' May's illness is an expression of succumbing to fate and the human helplessness to combat it. He is sorry for May and also for himself. His distress for her is coupled with the fear that she may die and leave him alone with the unanswered riddle. Henry James has described this crucial experience of Marcher with supreme power and delicacy, and poetic and dramatic elements combined together.

With the idea of losing May, Marcher probably has the image of being left alone in the jungle of life and having to face the beast alone. He is certain that he cannot, on his own, protect himself from the beast. He has therefore been subjected to the law of fate and has been overpowered by it. He does not have the power to combat it. His fear is that he has been 'sold' and he may be abandoned by May.

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