Henry James exploring Human Condition

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This story of “The Beast in the Jungle” is very impactful in its time because it explores the human conditions that may affect the psychological state of an individual. This story is really great because it is connected with modern society and we can see in modern novels and stories the themes that are explored in this story. For example: loneliness, fate, regret, darkness, death, etc. We see these themes more often now but I feel that James was a pioneer in exploring these topics.

In the story, we see this inquiry of observing human condition in the character of Marcher. Exploring the loneliness of Marcher opens this human condition that James wants to explain. For example, this loneliness is noticed when we see that Marcher has not many good friends, and only trusts May with his secret of this big event that he is waiting. Throughout the story, even Marcher himself isolates from loving May, and as a result, it ends with the tragic death of May and the deeply and forever loneliness that Marcher now has to carry for the rest of his life. One way I felt about this ending was that James is trying to make the readers aware of the importance of social interactions and the urgency of human connection and relationships with friends, families, and your significant other.  

Another theme that James explores involved in human condition is regret. He was often reminded by May that it wasn’t too late yet throughout the story, but only at the end was he able to discover the truth behind the event he was waiting his whole life. “She waited once again, always with her cold sweet eyes on him. It’s never too late.” (Chapter 4). He wasted his whole life waiting for something in the future without taking care or living in the present. Due to his selfish goal, he ended wasting his life and May’s life to the point of her death, and Marcher is now left with this sadness and regret while at the same time awaking and realizing that he has disregarded the present. I felt that this story wants to put importance to this element of “Carpe diem”. James is telling us to live in the present and enjoy the current day to day things, and not to worry or always be thinking about the future. There has to exist a balance between both and one should not focus in their future like Marcher because the individual will end up wasting their whole life. Marcher is a warning that James is implying to the readers, you will end up regretting your decisions if you’re not living in the present.

Overall, this story is very connected with modern society because it explores topics that we often see now such as loneliness, regret, relationships, death, etc. Although this was written in the 19th century, among all the stories, poems, novels, and essays that we have read in class, “The Beast in the Jungle” still has a big impact on the readers in current society. Henry James explores human condition and gives us the significance of taking care of the present, our emotions and psychological state. 


2 thoughts on “Henry James exploring Human Condition”

  1. Interesting post, Juan!  I agree that it’s important to think of James as an early example of 20th-Century modernism, even if the world he’s describing seems very dated and distant.  There is an awareness of the potential meaninglessness of life and history, of the emptiness of life, that is deeply symptomatic of the turn of the century, and early modernism. Ford Maddox Ford and E.M. Forester are similar in this way, and have very similar thematic concerns.

  2. I think this loneliness is part of why a modern reader would be invested in this story.  It feels like a very isolating age thanks to the internet, surprisingly.  Online shopping, remote delivery, and the like have made human interaction optional, and communication online has changed the nature of who you can talk to.  Certainly, these are useful tools, but I wonder what the long-term ramifications will be.  Just like Marcher, it’s a contrived loneliness.  The people are still there, just as they’ve always been, but reaching out must now be a conscious act.  Though, I suppose Marcher shows it always was.

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