Henry James and his enigmatic prose left a wake of eeriness and uncertainty in The Beast of the Jungle that captured attention in class discussions. Stephaniecaputo23 addressed its “alienating effect on the reader” and I myself have come to terms by regarding the novel as a disturbance in flow oriented to an absent end. There is a veritable distance in creation that James acknowledges in both his characters and prose.
Hayleykboyd structured a blog post about the ignorance of the past around The Beast of the Jungle. When Marcher and Bartram initially reconnect, “what is going on here is a creation, an invention of the past in the present.” The ongoing invention of past and its creation creations a disconnect that Marcher and Bartram found their relation upon. Without the creation, “They would separate, and now for no second or no third chance. They would have tried and not succeeded.” (2) There is an active echo in both experience and creation. In experience, the solecisms and objective share common ground and are dependent only on sensory. Creation also is held by an active continuation, whether distant, reflexive, or erred to fault. James took his time here to tell the reader of his motive. The only chance he had of holding attention is by simulating a divide, this being one between both the reader and story and Marcher, Bartram. There is a pulse you develop when reading this novel that hinges on not knowing its meaning or conclusion. Rnmacg123 pinned it to the goals of our course in a cogent way that I, at times, find myself incapable of doing. “The idea of failure is generally regarded in society as making a mistake or missing the mark in some way.” Missing the mark in The Beast of the Jungle sustains and defines what is to come.
The prose itself acclimated to the idea of missing the mark line by line. I looked out of my window at a passing two-tone Corolla, disengaged from another memory, and randomly pinched the book to page 41. “The deposition of this personage arrived but with her death, which, followed by many changes, made in particular a difference for the young woman in whom Marcher’s expert attention had recognized from the first a dependent with a pride that might ache though it didn’t bristle.” The prose in general has a hidden cant in it. He is so precise in language, so scientific in prudence, and yet so dodgy with its narration and ending. In a direct mirror, Mmacg123 wrote that Marcher “ignores and resists any action or realization,” but he is, without much doubt, obsessed around the fact that there may one day be an action or realization. The narration then drifts to that of Marcher’s internal monologue and uses a metaphor quite unusual in the style of James. “A pride that might ache though it didn’t bristle” is a different, emotional narrator’s expression and the original narrator has left without quote or clarification. James does this throughout the novel as we have discussed. He will switch from 1st to 3rd to omniscient, to a communal observer (his use of “our” during the story), and so on. The language away from point of view includes his patented flow (“which, followed by many changes, made in particular a…”) from, to, and around a summary as his protagonist does the same. He is shaping the course of his sentences to miss the mark and highlight the distance involved in creation and experience, its concatenation expiring only when entirely absent.
Seeing a gap in creation is nothing new. Hume, Emerson, and Sebald all noticed and meant it. Beckett and his volley of alienation on crank, Larsen’s discomfort in assessment (Helga remembers, after crossing the Atlantic, that Axel Olsen thought of her as a “deliberate lure”), and Time Out’s pilgrimage to the Alps hint at its disconnect in various ways. The only link between gaps we’ve managed to articulate is also an invention as haleykboyd pointed out. Beckett wrote a piece on Proust in 1930 and quoted “But were I granted time to finish my work, I would not fail to stamp it with the seal of that Time, now so forcibly present to my mind, and in it I would describe men, even at the risk of giving them the appearance of monstrous beings, as occupying in Time a much greater place than that so sparingly conceded to them in Space, a place extended beyond measure, because, like giants plunged into the years, they touch at once those periods of their lives – separated by so many days – so far apart in Time.” I will sell it short and admit we are held (forced) to the space of the past and that James knew this. He then managed, absent of conclusion, to filter emotion and its distance through prose scaffolded and bent.