Differing Interpretations of ―The Beast in the Jungle‖
First Take
The Western (i.e., British tradition) English-language noveltraditionally ends with a wedding or a funeral. The marriagepl...
• Reflects changing relationships between men and women  • ―…as the contract between man and wife loses its sense of neces...
―Marcher could only feel he ought to have rendered her someservice--saved her from a capsized boat in the bay or at leastr...
―It had become suddenly, from her movement and attitude,beautiful and vivid to him that she had something more togive him;...
Second Take
• Tripartite mind (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900)  • Id: unconscious mind  • Ego: conscious/waking mind  • Super-ego:...
• Four-part theory of the mind  • Super-ego & ego function akin to Freud  • But your unconscious now has 2 parts:     • Pe...
• ―the outer secret, the secret of having a secret, functions, in Marcher‘s  life, precisely as the closet.‖• ―…James ofte...
―They were literally afloat together; for our gentleman thiswas marked, quite as marked as that the fortunate cause ofit w...
―Yes, but since, as you say, Im only, so far as people make out,ordinary, youre—arent you?—no more than ordinary either. Y...
• By the end of ―The Beast in the Jungle,‖ both James and  Marcher are operating under the assumption, common to  patriarc...
Third Take
• ―The limits of my language means the limits of my world.‖ –  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922• ...
Ferdinand de Saussure:• SIGNIFIER (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes;  and• SIGNIFIED (signifié) - the concept i...
―‗It would be the worst,‘ she finally let herself say. ‗I mean thething Ive never said.‘It hushed him a moment. ‗More mons...
The phallus can only play its role when veiled, that is, as initself as sign of the latency with which everything signifia...
―The rest of the world of course thought him queer, but she,she only, knew how, and above all why, queer; which wasprecise...
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Henry James (Summer 2012)

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Henry James (Summer 2012)

  1. 1. Differing Interpretations of ―The Beast in the Jungle‖
  2. 2. First Take
  3. 3. The Western (i.e., British tradition) English-language noveltraditionally ends with a wedding or a funeral. The marriageplot—man and woman meet, overcome obstacles to love, andmarry at the conclusion of the story—has been a significantfeature of the novel since it emerged as a genre (see Pamela,Samuel Richardson, 1740).18th Century• Initially reflects the emerging middle class in European industrialized society (i.e., those most likely to buy and read novels)• ―… For bourgeois society marriage is the all-subsuming, all- organizing, all-containing contract. …The bourgeois novelist has no choice but to engage the subject of marriage in one way or another, at no matter what extreme of celebration or contestation.‖ –Tony Tanner
  4. 4. • Reflects changing relationships between men and women • ―…as the contract between man and wife loses its sense of necessity and binding power, so does the contract between novelist and reader. . . . In confronting the problems of marriage and adultery, the bourgeois novel finally has to confront not only the provisionality of social laws and rules and structures but the provisionality of its own procedures and assumptions‖ –Tony Tanner• What we learn about John and May • ―John Marcher…does not even know that desire is absent from his life, nor that May Bartram desires him, until after she has died from his obtuseness.‖ • ―Of May Bartram‘s history, of her emotional determinants, of her erotic structures the reader learns very little; we are permitted, if we pay attention at all, to know that we have learned very little. …‗The Beast in the Jungle‘ seems to give the reader permission to imagine some female needs and desires and gratifications that are not structured exactly in the image of Marcher‘s or of the story‘s own laws.‖ –Eve Sedgwick
  5. 5. ―Marcher could only feel he ought to have rendered her someservice--saved her from a capsized boat in the bay or at leastrecovered her dressing-bag, filched from her cab in the streets ofNaples by a lazzarone with a stiletto. Or it would have been niceif he could have been taken with fever all alone at his hotel, andshe could have come to look after him, to write to his people, todrive him out in convalescence. Then they would be inpossession of the something or other that their actual showseemed to lack.‖ (Chapter I, p. 36)―The real form it should have taken on the basis that stood outlarge was the form of their marrying. But the devil in this was thatthe very basis itself put marrying out of the question. Hisconviction, his apprehension, his obsession, in short, wasnt aprivilege he could invite a woman to share; and thatconsequence of it was precisely what was the matter with him.Something or other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and theturns of the months and the years, like a crouching Beast in theJungle. It signified little whether the crouching Beast weredestined to slay him or to be slain. The definite point was theinevitable spring of the creature; and the definite lesson from thatwas that a man of feeling didnt cause himself to beaccompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt.‖ (Chapter II, pp. 43-44)
  6. 6. ―It had become suddenly, from her movement and attitude,beautiful and vivid to him that she had something more togive him; her wasted face delicately shone with it--itglittered almost as with the white lustre of silver in herexpression. She was right, incontestably, for what he saw inher face was the truth, and strangely, without consequence,while their talk of it as dreadful was still in the air, sheappeared to present it as inordinately soft. This, promptingbewilderment, made him but gape the more gratefully forher revelation…‖ (Chapter IV, p. 59)―The escape would have been to love her; then, then, hewould have lived.‖ (Chapter VI, p. 70)
  7. 7. Second Take
  8. 8. • Tripartite mind (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900) • Id: unconscious mind • Ego: conscious/waking mind • Super-ego: morality, sense of right and wrong (instilled by family/society)• Freudian repression (―Second Lecture,‖ 1909) • When uncomfortable desires emerge in the conscious mind, the super-ego pushes them back down into the id (repression) • Repressed wishes continue to exist in the unconscious. What to do? • A patient can… • Accept the wish • Redirect it to something unobjectionable • Condemn it and thus control it
  9. 9. • Four-part theory of the mind • Super-ego & ego function akin to Freud • But your unconscious now has 2 parts: • Personal Unconscious: similar to Freud‘s id • Collective Unconscious: archetypes and universal symbols and myths we all have access to/know innately• Dream States: Freud vs. Jung • Dreams are where we can access our repressed ideas (Freud) • Dreams are where we tap into the collective unconscious (Jung)
  10. 10. • ―the outer secret, the secret of having a secret, functions, in Marcher‘s life, precisely as the closet.‖• ―…James often, though not always, attempted such a disguise or transmutation, but reliably left a residue both of material that he did not attempt to transmute and of material that could only be transmuted rather violently and messily…‖ ―A more frankly ‗full‘ meaning for that unspeakable fate might come from the centuries-long historical chain of substantive uses of space- clearing negatives to void and at the same time to underline the possibility of male same-sex genitality. The rhetorical name for this figure is preterition. Unspeakable, unmentionable, nefandem libidinem, ‗that sin which should be neither named nor committed,‘ the ‗detestable and abominable sin, amongst Christians not to be named,‘… ‗things fearful to name,‘ ‗the obscene sound of the unbeseeming words,‘ … ‗the love that dare not speak its name‘—such were the speakable nonmedical terms…for the homosexual possibility for men. …it is mostly in the reifying grammar of…preterition…that a homosexual meaning‖ emerges.
  11. 11. ―They were literally afloat together; for our gentleman thiswas marked, quite as marked as that the fortunate cause ofit was just the buried treasure of her knowledge. He hadwith his own hands dug up this little hoard, brought to light--that is to within reach of the dim day constituted by theirdiscretions and privacies--the object of value the hiding-place of which he had, after putting it into the groundhimself, so strangely, so long forgotten.‖ (Chapter II, p. 42)―You said you had had from your earliest time, as thedeepest thing within you, the sense of being kept forsomething rare and strange, possibly prodigious andterrible, that was sooner or later to happen to you, that youhad in your bones the foreboding and the conviction of, andthat would perhaps overwhelm you.‖ (Chapter I, p. 39)
  12. 12. ―Yes, but since, as you say, Im only, so far as people make out,ordinary, youre—arent you?—no more than ordinary either. Youhelp me to pass for a man like another.‖ (Chapter III, pp. 50-51)―…‗your not being aware of it‘—and she seemed to hesitate aninstant to deal with this—‗your not being aware of it is thestrangeness in the strangeness. Its the wonder of the wonder.‘She spoke as with the softness almost of a sick child, yet now atlast, at the end of all, with the perfect straightness of a sibyl. Shevisibly knew that she knew, and the effect on him was ofsomething co-ordinate, in its high character, with the law that hadruled him. It was the true voice of the law; so on her lips wouldthe law itself have sounded. ‗It has touched you,‘ she went on. ‗Ithas done its office. It has made you all its own.‘‖ (Chapter V, p.61)―‗Well,‘ she quickly replied, ‗I myself have never spoken. Ivenever, never repeated of you what you told me.‘… ‗Please dont then. Were just right as it is.‘
  13. 13. • By the end of ―The Beast in the Jungle,‖ both James and Marcher are operating under the assumption, common to patriarchal societies, that the only ―satisfying‖ or ―normal‖ sexual relationship is between a man and a woman, or that the only sexual orientation available to an adult is ―straight.‖―‗What I long ago said is true. Youll never know now, and Ithink you ought to be content. Youve had it,‘ said MayBartram.‗But had what?‘‗Why what was to have marked you out. The proof of yourlaw. It has acted. Im too glad,‘ she then bravely added, ‗tohave been able to see what its not.‘ (Chapter V, p.62)
  14. 14. Third Take
  15. 15. • ―The limits of my language means the limits of my world.‖ – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922• ―Everything is the same except composition and as the composition is different and always going to be different everything is not the same.‖ –Gertrude Stein, ―Composition as Explanation,‖ 1926• A third way of interpreting ―The Beast in the Jungle‖ is not in its attempt to examine the limits of the marriage plot, nor an effort to depict repressed homosexuality and its consequences, but as a comment on the variability and inexactitude of language itself.
  16. 16. Ferdinand de Saussure:• SIGNIFIER (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes; and• SIGNIFIED (signifié) - the concept it represents.• The SIGN is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified.• Signifier + Signified = Sign Imagine you see this ―Open‖ sign in a doorway. SIGNIFIER: the word ―Open‖ + SIGNIFIED: that the shop is open for business = SIGN
  17. 17. ―‗It would be the worst,‘ she finally let herself say. ‗I mean thething Ive never said.‘It hushed him a moment. ‗More monstrous than all themonstrosities weve named?‘‗More monstrous. Isnt that what you sufficiently express,‘ sheasked, ‗in calling it the worst?‘‖ (Chapter IV, p. 57)―She was ‗out of it,‘ to Marchers vision; her work was over; shecommunicated with him as across some gulf or from some islandof rest that she had already reached, and it made him feelstrangely abandoned. Was it--or rather wasnt it--that if for solong she had been watching with him the answer to theirquestion must have swum into her ken and taken on its name,so that her occupation was verily gone? …There was something,it seemed to him, that the wrong word would bring down on hishead, something that would so at least ease off his tension. Buthe wanted not to speak the wrong word; that would makeeverything ugly.‖ (Chapter IV, p. 55)
  18. 18. The phallus can only play its role when veiled, that is, as initself as sign of the latency with which everything signifiableis struck as soon as it is raised to the function of signifier.The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark in whichthe role of the logos is joined with the advent of desire.Here is signed the conjunction of desire, in that the phallicsignifier is its mark, with the threat or nostalgia of lacking it.
  19. 19. ―The rest of the world of course thought him queer, but she,she only, knew how, and above all why, queer; which wasprecisely what enabled her to dispose the concealing veil inthe right folds.‖ (Chapter II, p. 45)―The lost stuff of consciousness became thus for him as astrayed or stolen child to an unappeasable father; hehunted it up and down very much as if he were knocking atdoors and enquiring of the police. This was the spirit inwhich, inevitably, he set himself to travel; he started on ajourney that was to be as long as he could make it; itdanced before him that, as the other side of the globecouldnt possibly have less to say to him, it might, by apossibility of suggestion, have more.‖ (Chapter V, p. 66)

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