The Beast in the Jungle Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Beast in the Jungle: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “You said you had from your earliest time, as the deepest thing within you, the sense of being kept for something rare and strange, possibly prodigious and terrible, that was sooner or later to happen to you, that you had in your bones the foreboding and conviction of, and that would perhaps overwhelm you.”
    Chapter 1

    May Bartram speaks to John Marcher at Weatherend, where they have met for the first time in ten years. She recalls what Marcher said to her on their first meeting, in Italy. Marcher’s premonition of something that will happen to him in the future is the “beast in the jungle” that gives the story its title.
  2. “I’ll watch with you.”
    Chapter 1

    These are the words May speaks as she and Marcher part following their meeting at Weatherend. May is responding to Marcher’s request and promising him that she will watch with him for the coming of the “beast in the jungle” so that they will both know what it is. It is one of the first signs of her willingness to be devoted to Marcher.
  3. “Something or other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and turns of the months and the years, like a crouching beast in the jungle. It signified little whether the crouching beast were destined to slay him or be slain. The definite point was the inevitable spring of the creature, and the definite lesson from that was that a man of feeling didn’t cause himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt.”
    Chapter II

    These are Marcher’s thoughts, using the metaphor of the hunt, with himself as the hunted. He is using his awareness that something strange is going to happen to him as an excuse not to get closer to May. He does not entertain the possibility of marrying her, for example, because he does not want to burden her with the trauma of what he imagines will be this future event.
  4. “What it had come to was that he wore a mask painted with the social simper, out of the eyeholes of which there looked eyes of an expression not in the least matching the other features.”
    Chapter II

    This is a description of Marcher, and how he presents a face to the world that is quite different from what he feels inside. He keeps up the appearance of being normal and leading a normal life, but he is really a haunted man, haunted by his fear of the coming “beast.” This fear and apprehension can be seen in his eyes.
  5. “You’ll never find out.”
    Chapter II

    May Bartram speaks. Something in her manner has convinced Marcher that she knows something concerning the “beast in the jungle” that he does not. He thinks she is afraid to tell him and afraid that he will find out. This is her response, which confirms that she does indeed know something but that he never will. Coming at the end of the section,  this response deepens the mystery of what exactly the beast is, and how this strange event could happen to Marcher without him knowing about it.
  6. “That was what women had where they were interested; they made out things, where people were concerned, that the people couldn’t have made out for themselves. Their nerves, their sensibility, their imagination, were conductors and revealers, and the beauty of May Bartram was in particular that she had given herself so to his case.”
    Chapter III

    These are Marcher’s thoughts as he tries to figure out what May could possibly know about the “beast” that he doesn’t know himself. From this point on, as he knows that she knows something, she becomes even more indispensable to him, and he grows afraid of losing her.
  7. “‘It’s never too late.’ She had, with her gliding step, diminished the distance between them, and she stood nearer to him, close to him, a minute, as if still charged with the unspoken.”
    Chapter IV

    May is seriously ill when Marcher visits her. She tells him there is still time for him to know what the awaited “beast” is, and she gets up from her chair and moves toward him. She is hoping that he will see that the beast is his inability to express love for her, and that perhaps he will offer some gesture or declaration of love. But the moment passes. Marcher does not understand what she is saying and is still obsessed with the idea that there is something that is going to happen to him rather than there being something that he should do himself.
  8. “She was dying and he would lose her; she was dying and his life would end.”
    Chapter V

    These are Marcher’s thoughts as he realizes the gravity of May’s illness. He realizes how much his own life is bound up with her existence because she is the one person who knows his secret and understands him. If she were to die, he thinks, there would be nothing left in his life.
  9. “What it presently came to in truth was that poor Marcher waded through his beaten grass, where no life stirred, where no breath sounded, where no evil eye seemed to gleam from a possible lair, very much as if looking for the Beast, and still more as if acutely missing it.”
    Chapter V

    May has died, and Marcher still does not have the vaguest idea about what the “beast” is or where he should look for it. He dare not talk to anyone else about it for fear they will regard him as foolish, and he would feel foolish listening to himself. He feels utterly alone.
  10. This face, one grey afternoon, when the leaves were thick in the alleys, looked into Marcher’s own, at the cemetery, with an expression like the cut of a blade.”
    Chapter VI

    Marcher is at the cemetery where May is buried, and he sees another man there, mourning over a fresh grave. When the man passes by him, the two men look at each other. Marcher sees the suffering in the man’s face, and feels that he, Marcher, is being reproached for his own lack of passion in mourning May and the similar lack of passion he displayed for her when she was alive. This is the key moment that triggers Marcher’s realization of what the “beast” really was, a failure to love.


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