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Thread: The Beast In The Jungle

  1. #1
    Vola Lawson

    The Beast In The Jungle

    An early example of a man who ruins his life by being a non- particapant in his own life,or in the times in which he lives. That May would be willing to waste her life with him, to"go down with the ship"with him, is tragic. This novella was one of my favorites when I read it almost fifty years ago, because I thought James had insightfully written about a man frozen by his fears and sense of impending disaster--a variation on FDR's statement that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

  2. #2

    Brokeback Mountain - A modern & realistic version of Beast in the Jungle

    I read Beast in the Jungle 35 years ago in college and despite it's difficult language it moved me greatly. It has been an instructive parable on how not to waste my life which has helped to guide me in many things. (Not the least of which is to be brave enough to have children at 47 and 53.) There are strong echoes of Beast in the Jungle in Brokeback Mountain which I just read. With much more accessible language the author, Annie Proulx, tells of lives wasted because of fear. In Beast in the Jungle, John Marcher's fear of intimacy, not just his egotism, led him to waste his (and May Bartram’s) life. In Brokeback Mountain, Ennis and Jack's fear of rejection and murder from a homophobic society, as well as their own internalized homophobia, leads them to waste their lives. In this case the characters are not afraid of intimacy as much as they are a real external threat. None-the-less, both stories speak of lives not lived to their fullest. Henry James says of May, “She had lived--who could say now with what passion?--since she had loved him for himself...” and, in that sense, she is not as pathetic as Marcher. Like May, Jack and Ennis did have some emotional fulfillment. They did get together for clandestine meetings and from time to time. Yet, both books speak of wasted lives. The ending of Brokeback, however, is almost as bleak as Beast, some might say worse. Like Marcher, Ennis finally understands what was lost. Yet, unlike Beast where Marcher is very old at the end of the tale, Ennis is only 39. None-the-less, he seem determined to (as Henry James said) continually “fling himself, face down, on the tomb” of his lost love rather than to learn from his loss and actually live the rest of his life with an open and brave heart. Others might say Brokeback Mountain ends more positively because Ennis, unlike Marcher, has many more years left and despite his intense morning over Jack, where there is life, there is hope.

  3. #3
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    New York
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    I've always struggled with Henry James. There are works which I enjoy and those that irritate me - his writing style can be so stilited. Supposedly he does that for an aesthetic reason, but I've never quite understood why. But The Beast in the Jungle is an absolutely great work, one of the truely great short novels of all time. It's a short read and a must.

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

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  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Mar 2008
    Montpellier, France
    How did you feel after the reading?
    Their platonic relationship was an unrequited love story, very, very frustrating for May...
    It is interesting that a critic (eve kosofsky sedgwick) pointed out it was because Marcher didn't know he was attracted to men that he did not feel for May.
    What do you think of that statement?

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