Redefining the beast in the jungle

Tags: Fear of happiness / being a coward / political formations

“Political formations” read about then discussed in class, and which Stone used as a tag for his post in regards to Halberstam, takes the focus away from “queer” as sexual orientation and places it on anything outside traditional “normative” behavior.

What is “normative” behavior? Who made it that way? Why is there a “normative” behavior? And, who allows this political formation to continue?

As Stone wrote, “I’m more curious as to why when calling failure a success when it shouldn’t be addressed as a failure at all.” At the end of the post, Stone posed an interesting question, which I paraphrase as: If failure carries negative connotation, are we reinforcing that when non-normative groups fail, it’s ok to fail, but being anything else than normal is unacceptable? In this way of political structuring only a very small percentage of the population will be socially correct.

The political structure of “normative” behavior is a failure for many members of society. The bigger failure is that society allows the structure to continue.

About Henry James’s novella “The Beast in the Jungle,” Bodonn wrote, “Marcher is disconcerted by [Bartram’s] actions, and begins to doubt his fortune.” At the end of the post Bodonn wrote, “Marcher’s meek, misguided motions . . . are proof of his fear of commitment, his fear of love.” A tag for Bodonn’s post is “being a coward.” Fear created by political structures is a social failure.

In my post about Henry James’s “The Beast in the Jungle,” I wrote, when recalling Marcher’s remembrance of his and Bartram’s first meeting, that “[Marcher] did nothing to pursue his desire, and instead he walked away.” The tag was, “fear of happiness.” Now I wonder if he was actually happy, but that he did not care to or was unable to act in a “normative” way.

Returning to political formations, the blog very interestingly, states “a culture or group of people that come to inhabit the world that are completely normal will inherently succeed even if it doesn’t really seem like they’re succeeding at all because once again, it’s the norm.”

This is so very interesting because a problem with normative behavior is that it does not necessarily equate to happiness. And vice versa. Non-normative behavior does not necessarily equate to unhappiness. Marcher and Bartram, whatever their reasons, chose not to marry yet they had a long standing relationship. At the end Marcher expressed deep grief, but would he have if he and Bartram had forced themselves into the constructs of normative behavior? Perhaps because of their individual and independent natures they would have ended up resenting married life. And, in resenting married life they each would have felt angst against the other individual. Had they of married and had children, then not only would they have suffered, but the children may felt the angst and also have suffered. Maybe a reason one or both Marcher and Bartram shunned a normative relationship, is because of childhood experiences with parents who detested the institution of marriage.

Another reason, as we discussed in class and in some blogs, are that, for reasons not made apparent in the novella, Marcher and Bartram were each content with their arrangement.

At the end of the novella Marcher is in great grief over what he may have done differently while Bartram was alive. But, that soul searching is not exclusive to “normative” relationships. When a loved one dies, agonizing over what would have, could have, should have happened is common.

Another aspect is that in “The Beast in the Jungle” Marcher is the protagonist, but Bartram was the stronger character. Not in the sense of the structure of the novella, but in the sense that she had a stronger intellectual and emotional constitution. The novella opens with Marcher’s observance of her guiding guests through a great home, she had the better memory, she was the one who succored whatever it was that Bartram thought would happen to him, she was the one who faced the greater consternation from contemporaries. She had had her man, her way. The novella does not indicate that she died unhappy.

The beast in “The Beast in the Jungle” may not be cowardice by Marcher. The jungle may be political formations of “normative,” and the beast may be lack of active resistance to those formations.




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