The Beast in the Jungle is a 1903 novella by Henry James, first published as part of the collection, The Better Sort.
Almost universally considered one of James' finest short narratives, this story treats appropriately universal themes: loneliness, fate, love and death.
John Marcher, the protagonist, is reacquainted with May Bartram, a woman he knew ten years earlier, who remembers his odd secret: Marcher is seized with the belief that his life is to be defined by some catastrophic or spectacular event, lying in wait for him like a "beast in the jungle." May decides to buy a house in London with the money she inherited from a great aunt, and to spend her days with Marcher, curiously awaiting what fate has in store for him.
The parable of John Marcher and his peculiar destiny has spoken to many readers who have speculated on the worth and meaning of human life.
James placed The Beast in the Jungle at the head of volume 17 of the New York Edition (1907–1909) of his fiction, along with another insightful examination of life and death, The Altar of the Dead. Critics have almost unanimously agreed with the author's own high opinion of the tale, with some going so far as to put the story among the best short narratives in any literature.
Henry James, OM (Order of Merit) (1843-1916) was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism.
He is best known for a number of novels showing Americans encountering Europe and Europeans. His method of writing from a character's point of view allowed him to explore issues related to consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting. His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and unreliable narrators brought a new depth to narrative fiction.
Henry James was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911, 1912, and 1916.