The Beast in the Jungle
The Beast in the Jungle has to be one of the saddest stories that we've read so far. What's interesting in the way James does this is how he focuses on the different characters. Although the story isn't told in the first person by any of the character's, it can be argued that the story revolves more around John Marcher, and we get much better insight into his character than, say, May Bartram. Even though this is the case, or perhaps because of it, we finally feel more sympathy, sadness and even attention given towards the character's, whom for the story, don't initially feel like they would be as important in this aspect. James seems to do this in a lot of his stories: this practice is basically the same in "Daisy Miller", "The Pupil" and even "The Jolly Corner". It would be a little simplistic to say that the protagonist in these stories is just a jerk and someone who is unappreciative towards those around them. Part of the problem in this is that the protagonist is often suffering too--though perhaps for different reasons. Marcher isn't as neglected as May, but he still feels alienated in a way. Marcher just doesn't seem like he knows how to approach the situations that arise in his life. I believe most of this comes down to his obsession with the "true experience" or whatever he feels is going to happen, along with the worry that this obsession, by definition almost, requires. He's so preoccupied by these thoughts of the experience that when the experience does unfold before his eyes he doesn't even see it.
The Jolly Corner
With this story, I felt like it would have been more "convincing" if we were given more information about Brydon's life spent in Europe. Given his obsession regarding the desire to go back and change his life, or at least know what the alternative could have been (basically the pursuit though impossibility in knowing the unkowable) the reader wants to know what was so unsatisfactory about his "actual" or "real" life. I wonder if James did this to show that it doesn't really matter what our actual experiences are--even if they are the best possible outcomes that could ever happen to us-- we would still probably wonder "what if....?" If this is the case with this story, it shows how misguided this capacity for wonder is. Brydon returns home--things aren't exactly the way he remembered them, the corner house on the Jolly Corner is falling apart. All that Brydon possibly could have achieved had he stayed would have been money. This seems simple enough, yet he literally goes crazy stalking this idea (as well as "himself") in the old abandoned house. I sort of see this as the impossibilty of us, as people, in ever finding resolution or closure in our life--even when we know all the possibilities and their outcomes.