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2014 | 11 | 141-163

Article title

References to Antiquity in Henry James’ novella “The Beast in the Jungle”

Title variants

Références à l’Antiquité dans la nouvelle d’Henry James « La Bête dans la jungle »

Languages of publication



The paper examines numerous references to tradition of Antiquity in Henry James’ novella “The Beast in the Jungle” and draws attention to their binary nature. The binary pairs which most of the references seem to form are based on the simple opposition between reality and illusion. The story depicts the life of John Marcher, who believes himself to be destined to experience an event which will transform his life dramatically. The main protagonist is waiting for the arrival of the beast. The allusions to particular ancient texts, beliefs and architecture help to define the nature of John Marcher’s problem, by highlighting his tragic situation, the conflict within him, as well as the stagnation which characterizes his existence. The majority of the references can be joined into pairs within which one reference indicates how the protagonist falsely perceives himself while the opposing one suggests the real condition which he is not aware of. More-over, the references offer a greater understanding of the role of the second character of the novella, May Bartram, in Marcher’s life. The parallel between May and the mythical Ariadne, for instance, enables us to predict the fate of Miss Bartram in the story. The references in question are presented in the article, while their functions are thoroughly examined.
Le présent article analyse les nombreuses références à la tradition de l’Antiquité dans la nouvelle « La Bête dans la jungle » d’Henry James et il tire l’attention du lecteur sur leur caractère binaire. Les paires binaires que la plupart des références semblent former sont basées sur la simple opposition entre la réalité et l’illusion. Le récit présente la vie de John Marcher, qui se croit destiné à vivre un événement qui transformera sa vie de manière dramatique. Le héros principal attend la venue de la bête. Les allusions à certains textes antiques, à certaines croyances et à certaine architecture aident à définir la nature du problème de John Marcher, en soulignant sa situation tragique, son conflit intérieur et la stagnation qui caractérise son existence. La majorité des références peuvent être mises en paires dans lesquelles une référence indique la façon dont le héros se perçoit à tort et l’autre suggère sa condition réelle dont il n’est pas conscient. De plus, les références permettent de mieux comprendre le rôle du second personnage dans la nouvelle, May Bartram, dans la vie de Marcher. La parallèle entre May et l’Ariane mythique, par exemple, nous permet de prédire le destin de Miss Bartram dans le récit. Les références en question sont présentées dans l’article et leurs fonctions sont examinées en détail.


  • Uniwersytet Gdański, Poland


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Document Type

Publication order reference



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