The Buried Life: Shadow and Anima in James’s “The Beast in the Jungle” and “The Jolly Corner”

by Sandra S. Hughes

December 31, 2008


This essay offers a Jungian reading of “The Beast in the Jungle” and “The Jolly Corner,” suggesting that James’s tales dramatize the processes of integrating repressed materials of the unconscious into the conscious mind, with the following results: the final note sounded by “The Beast in the Jungle” is one of despair, as the scene depicts a painful, permanent separation of John Marcher from his anima; in contrast, “The Jolly Corner” ends with a mutual affirmation on the part of Spencer Brydon and his anima figure, Alice Staverton. Unlike John Marcher, Spencer Brydon has come to his realization just in time.


The ending of Henry James’s 1908 tale “The Jolly Corner” poses an interesting problem for critics because its climactic event defies literal interpretation. In “the cold dim dawn” that follows a night of prowling about his childhood home, Spencer Brydon “sees” his alter ego, a darker version of himself. Brydon’s “old friend,” Alice Staverton, while asleep in her Irving Street apartment, simultaneously encounters a dream version of Brydon’s alter ego. Critical attempts to interpret these simultaneous visions in a realistic fashion prove unconvincing. John Byers asserts that Alice Staverton lies about her first two dreams of the alter ego in order to raise Brydon’s interest and then constructs the fiction of the simultaneous vision in order to “entrap” Brydon in marriage, whereas Barbara Hardy theorizes that “The coincidence is acceptable . . . because she [Alice] gives no description, pressing on our credulity with the lightest possible touch, because it completes the fable, and because . . . she is obsessed as he is with what he might have been” (“Jolly” 198). However, neither Byers nor Hardy takes into account the fact that Alice knows about the alter ego’s “great convex pince-nez,” his “ruined sight,” and about his maimed hand—all details that correspond to Brydon’s vision of the figure—before he shares any of these details with her. If all of these points, as well as separations of space and of individual consciousness argue against a realistic interpretation of events, the simultaneity and identical content of the visions argue just as strongly for a psychological reading. Specifically, I contend that James’s tale dramatizes the processes of integrating repressed materials of the unconscious into the conscious mind.

Indeed, it seems that “The Jolly Corner” represents the culmination of James’s thinking on psychological integration, a subject that he had first addressed five years earlier in “The Beast in the Jungle.” As Edward Wagenknecht and Millicent Bell, among others, have noted, May Bartram may be seen as the forerunner of Alice Staverton. Likewise, the crouching “beast” that stalks John Marcher in “The Beast in the Jungle” has certain affinities with the strange alter ego figure that haunts Spencer Brydon in “The Jolly Corner.” Like Madeline Usher of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” May Bartram and Alice Staverton each represent the female component of a male protagonist’s “divided self.” In fact, the descriptions of May’s relationship with Marcher and of Alice’s relationship with Brydon bear striking resemblance to C.G. Jung’s depiction of the interaction between the conscious male mind and the anima.
Jung asserts that “No man is so entirely masculine that he has nothing feminine in him.” According to Jung, “A man counts it a virtue to repress his feminine traits as much as possible . . . [and] the repression of feminine traits and inclinations naturally causes these contrasexual demands to accumulate in the unconscious” (Aspects of the Feminine 78); these repressed feminine traits within the male psyche Jung labels the “anima.” The male persona, or outer consciousness, is associated with the mind, abstraction, and words, whereas the anima is associated with the soul, feeling, and inwardness (Hillman 61). Anima is, moreover, linked with the realm of fantasy, dream, and illusion. In order to become psychologically healthy, a person must struggle to recognize the accumulated contrasexual impulses and integrate them into the conscious personality.

According to Jung, the process of integration involves the recognition not only of an opposite-sex other, but also of a same-sex other known as the “shadow.” The shadow, symbolized by the “beast” in “The Beast in the Jungle” and by the spectral alter ego figure in “The Jolly Corner,” contains all of the repressed negative characteristics or “inferiorities” of the conscious personality. According to Jung, these “dark characteristics” have “an emotional nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive quality” (Aspects of the Feminine 165). Like the anima, the shadow must be confronted and assimilated into the conscious mind before an individual can attain psychological health.

In her Jungian reading of Logos (Animus) and Eros (Anima) in Roderick Hudson and The Portrait of a Lady, Annette Benert notes several similarities between the overall philosophies of James and Jung which have bearing on my exploration of anima and shadow figures in “The Beast in the Jungle” and “The Jolly Corner”:

Specifically, the novelist and the psychologist seem to share: 1) a view of the human psyche as androgynous and multiple and as best described in metaphorical or dramatic terms; we ‘are’ all many people; 2) an approach to knowledge and perception that is highly subjective and imagistic: we ‘see’ largely what is inside our own heads; and 3) a valuation of the sexual bond as a potentially integrative force for the entire personality: what we ‘love’ and ‘know’ in another person we have some chance of coming to love and know in ourselves. (100)

Although I agree with Benert’s overall assessment, I do not see the bond between the principle characters of the two James short stories as explicitly “sexual,” but rather as a deep bond of opposite-sex friendship—and perhaps even of platonic love—that may still carry “potentially integrative force.”

Traditional critical responses to the first of these tales, “The Beast in the Jungle,” have treated the story as a failed romance between John Marcher and May Bartram. James Gargano provides an excellent discussion of the names Marcher and May as a source of seasonal imagery in the tale, in which he argues that “For James, April does not serve as a bridge but as a lacuna, a gap never successfully spanned” (162). Gargano goes on to assert, “With his story beginning and ending in the fall, Marcher has more symbolic affinity with that season that with either April or May” (162). In a second critical study of Marcher’s character, James Phelan maintains that Marcher’s “central trait” is “his being obsessed” (111). Moreover, he suggests that “the single dominant thematic function of Marcher’s character [is his] demonstrating the regrettable consequences of waiting for life to come to you” (111). While many scholars view Marcher’s withdrawal from May as a natural consequence of his egotism, Eve Sedgwick has provocatively reinterpreted Marcher’s sterility as a homosexual impulse. In his own careful deconstructionist reading of “The Beast in the Jungle,” Herbert Perluck contends that the assignment of any transcendent meaning to the tale is, at best, problematic. The latter two critics, in particular, have acknowledged the intensely psychological and complex nature of the story, a point which I would like to build upon in order to suggest that the tale depicts Marcher’s struggle toward a healthy integration of repressed shadow and anima characteristics.1

“The Beast in the Jungle” begins with a “renewal of acquaintance” between the thirty-year-old May Bartram and the thirty-five-year-old John Marcher on an October afternoon at Weatherend, a wonderful old house boasting “pictures, heirlooms, [and] treasures of all the arts” (277). Although May Bartram, a resident of Weatherend who “might roughly have ranked in the house as a poor relation,” immediately recalls everything about John Marcher and their first meeting ten years earlier, Marcher’s reaction to seeing May is quite different: “It affected him as the sequel of something of which he had lost the beginning” (278). Although May’s presence strikes a familiar note with Marcher, he misremembers all of the details of their first encounter: their meeting, according to May, “hadn’t been at Rome—it had been at Naples; and it hadn’t been seven years before—it had been more nearly ten. She hadn’t been either with her uncle and aunt but with her mother and her brother” (279).

Like the unconscious mind, May Bartram represents a repository for repressed memories. As Marcher observes, “the young woman herself had not lost the thread. She had not lost it, but she wouldn’t give it back to him, he saw, without some putting forth of his hand for it” (278). May, moreover, appears to Marcher in a setting symbolically decked with the trappings of the past—the “old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, old colour” of Weatherend. May’s function at Weatherend is also significant: in order to earn her keep, she “answers questions about the dates of the buildings, the styles of the furniture, the authorship of the pictures, the favourite haunts of the ghost”; in short, she serves as a guide to the past (278). It soon becomes apparent that May Bartram possesses a more than superficial knowledge of Marcher’s past—she knows the one thing about him that no one else knows, a secret that he does not remember sharing with her. As Adrian van Kaam and Kathleen Healey point out, it seems impossible that Marcher should have “‘forgotten’ that he confided his great secret to her . . . [because] the very fact that he told it should have rendered the telling unforgettable, for it is at the center of his conscious existence” (202).

James, then, has presented to his readers an unbelievable incident, an incident every bit as unbelievable, on a literal level, as the simultaneous visions of the alter ego in “The Jolly Corner.” Here, as in the later tale, the inability to accept the coincidence forces readers to consider a figurative interpretation. As James Hillman explains, Jung saw “male” and “female” as “metaphors for the psychic conditions of conscious and unconscious” (125). May Bartram’s links with the past, her perfect memory, and her unexplained knowledge of Marcher’s deepest secrets all suggest that she represents a projection of Marcher’s anima. James quite appropriately describes Marcher’s reaction to the unexpected revelation of May’s special knowledge in the language of the psyche—Marcher claims that he “had strangely enough lost the consciousness of having taken you so far into my confidence” (282, my emphasis). Furthermore, from the moment that May agrees to keep the secret, she is, according to the language of the text, “in possession.”

If May Bartram corresponds to the Jungian anima, then Marcher’s “secret” corresponds to a second Jungian construct, that of the shadow. May says to Marcher,

You said you had had from your earliest time as the deepest thing within you, the sense of being kept for something rare and strange, possibly prodigious and terrible, that was sooner or later to happen to you, that you had in your bones the foreboding and the conviction of, and that would perhaps overwhelm you. (282)

In this passage, the phrases “earliest time” and “deepest thing within you” indicate a connection with the unconscious, whereas the words “terrible,” “foreboding,” and “overwhelm” convey the dark and frightening nature of the material to be confronted by the conscious personality. Marcher recognizes that this “deepest thing” is something that he will “have to meet, to face” with the conceivable effect of “possibly destroying all further consciousness, possibly annihilating me; possibly, on the other hand, only altering everything, striking at the root of all my world and leaving me to the consequences, however they shape themselves” (283).

According to Jung, the actual consequences of externalizing one’s own worst qualities—Marcher’s egotism leads him to think that a grand, or at least significant, destiny awaits him—into some sort of projected fate, rather than dealing with them and assimilating them into the psyche, can be dire. Jung writes:

The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one . . . In the last analysis therefore, they lead to an autoerotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable. (Aspects of the Feminine 166)

Marcher does, indeed, “dream” a world, based on “the apprehension that haunts me—that I live with day by day” (283). When May promises to “watch” with Marcher, she agrees to serve as his comforter and guide through the perils of the unconscious world.

As Marcher comes to depend on May’s sympathy and loyalty, he opens himself up to a deeper relationship with the anima. His changing perceptions of the connection with May are revealed in the following passage:

. . . they were, to Marcher’s sense, no longer hovering about the head-waters of their stream, but had felt their boat pushed sharply off and down the current. They were literally afloat together; for our gentleman this was marked, quite as marked as that the fortunate cause of it was just the buried treasure of her knowledge. He had with his own hands dug up this little hoard, brought to light—that is to within reach of the dim day constituted by their discretions and privacies—the object of value, the hiding-place of which he had, after putting it into the ground himself, so strangely, so long forgotten. (285, my emphasis)

The imagery in this section falls into two basic categories—images of water, which I have italicized, and images of buried treasure. Water, according to Jung, “is the commonest symbol for the unconscious” (Basic 302). Furthermore, the processes of digging up the “little hoard,” “the buried treasure of her knowledge,” of bringing to light the “object of value” out of the “hiding-place . . . which he had after putting it into the ground himself, so strangely, so long forgotten” are emblematic of the process of excavating memories and repressed materials from the unconscious so that they may be examined within the conscious mind. The buried treasure motif also reflects a miserly obsession with hoarding mirrored on a conscious level by Marcher’s selfishness.2

Indeed, Marcher’s shadow qualities of egotism and selfishness, projected as “a crouching beast in the jungle” that “lay in wait for him, amid the twists and the turns of the months and the years,” serve as a barrier to the further development of the relationship with May, or the anima. Marcher’s rejection of his anima based on the conviction that “a man of feeling didn’t cause himself to be accompanied by a lady on a tiger-hunt” leads to his undoing (287). Jung maintains that “The relation with the anima is . . . a test of courage, an ordeal by fire for the spiritual and moral forces of man” (Basic 313). It is a test that John Marcher fails. As years pass and the beast fails to spring, Marcher refuses to accept any responsibility for acting—he will not marry May because he is too self-absorbed, and he will not initiate contact with the beast because he is too weak and afraid. He prefers, rather, to see the outcome of his life as being “in the lap of the gods” (290). Jung argues that such a “pessimistic resignation” brought about by the “sense of the powerlessness of the ego against the fate working through the unconscious” masks a “defiant will to power” (Campbell 84).

Marcher’s “will to power” is frustrated by the prophetic and enigmatic qualities of May Bartram, who is described as both a “sibyl” and a “sphinx.” Marcher remains convinced that she knows what will happen to him but refuses to tell him. This portrayal of May closely follows Jung’s understanding of the anima as a “‘sphinx-like’ character” (Hillman 54), a “harbinger of fate” (138), and a “sibyl, the guide of souls” (134). The anima also, in the Jungian system, “plays the role of the mediatrix between the unconscious and the conscious” (130); she is a Cassandra figure who has the power to avert fate only if taken seriously.

After decades of “watching” with Marcher, May falls ill with a “disease of the blood.” As Richard Hocks comments, “He [Marcher] so identifies with her plight that as her health deteriorates, he imagines himself as suffering from ‘some disfigurement of his outer person’” (166). Still, Marcher fails to understand her fate as inextricably linked with his own. She dies without his having acknowledged his appreciation, his “love” for her. As mediatrix, May was to have helped Marcher face the “beast” of his repressed dark characteristics. Her death, more a result of Marcher’s obtuseness and neglect than of any exterior cause, renders him unable to carry on with the integration of the shadow. He finds that the “Jungle had been threshed to vacancy and that the Beast had stolen away.” Desperately, Marcher wades “through his beaten grass, where no life stirred, where no breath sounded, where no evil eye seemed to gleam from a possible lair, very much as if vaguely looking for the Beast, and still more as if missing it” (306).

It is only after a year has passed that Marcher is able to return—from a sojourn in the “depths of Asia”—to May Bartram’s grave. When Marcher sees the face of a stranger and fellow visitor of the graveyard marked with grief, the truth finally becomes apparent to him: “she [May] was what he had missed.” His fate was to be “the man of his time, the man, to whom nothing on earth was to have happened” (311). The metaphorical beast springs when Marcher realizes:

The escape would have been to love her; then, then he would have lived. She had lived—who could say now with what passion?—since she had loved him for himself; whereas he had never thought of her (ah, how it hugely glared at him!) but in the chill of his egotism and the light of her use. (311)

Donna Przybylowicz convincingly argues that this “realization” represents nothing more than a “passive understanding.” She observes regarding Marcher that

[H]e moves from ignorance to knowledge, but never from passivity to activity, and remains an observer of his own deadness and apathy. He does not make an active decision to come to terms with his past by integrating it within his present and instead immerses himself in it. (110)

Marcher fails, then, not only in the integration of the anima, but also in the assimilation of the shadow. Although he achieves a limited understanding of his psychological fate, this understanding comes far too late.

Perhaps dissatisfied with the bleak ending of “The Beast in the Jungle,” James returned to the subject matter of shadow and anima integration five years later in “The Jolly Corner,” a tale that boasts a far more positive resolution. A great deal of scholarly attention has centered around the more hopeful ending and the related concept of “redemption.” Readings emphasizing this theme may be divided into religious and secular camps. For example, Jason Rosenblatt’s “Bridegroom and Bride in ‘The Jolly Corner,’” treats Matthew Ch. 25 as an intertext for the tale, whereas Barbara Hardy, taking a more secular approach, maintains that “The Jolly Corner” is “James’s best love-story,” one with “a rare happy ending” (Henry 14). While a number of recent critics have interpreted the tale through the lens of race, class, gender, sexuality, or national identity,3 psychological readings of “The Jolly Corner” have tended to focus more on James—that is, on specific biographical parallels and their psychological ramifications—than on the tale itself.4 I would argue that like “The Beast in the Jungle,” “The Jolly Corner” should be understood not only as a love story, but also as a metaphor for the processes of dealing with the “lost stuff of consciousness.”

When Spencer Brydon, a fifty-six-year-old American who has spent the last thirty-three years in self-imposed European “exile,” returns to the land of his birth, he is forced into a confrontation with his past—the touchstone of the unconscious. Contrary to his expectations, he finds himself drawn to the time of his youth:

[T]he ugly things he had expected, the ugly things of his far-away youth . . . these uncanny phenomena placed him rather, as it happened, under the charm; whereas the “swagger” things, the modern, the monstrous, the famous things, those he had more particularly . . . come over to see, were exactly his sources of dismay.


His new-found reverence for the past also manifests itself in his sentimental preservation of his childhood home from real estate developers. He willingly participates in the economically astute conversion of his other “item of property” into “a tall mass of flats,” but he stubbornly refuses “in the total absence of a reason” to make any changes to his ancestral home on “the jolly corner.”
Brydon is drawn not only to the places of the past but also to the people that he associates with that bygone era, such as his “old friend” Alice Staverton, from whom he has been long separated and with whom he shares many memories. Alice’s quality of understanding Brydon better than, and before, he understands himself—she apprehends his fear of his ugly alter ego, she knows before he tells her that he has been visiting “the jolly corner” in the hope of encountering this presence, she “sees” the alter ego twice in dreams before the instance in which she and Brydon have the simultaneous visions of him—points to her status as an aspect of his psyche rather than a discreet individual.5 Jung identifies the origin of the anima as the male’s early relationship with the mother, when instinct and biology remain uppermost, and explains that the anima is always “ready to spring out and project itself at the first opportunity” (Aspects of the Masculine 119). Alice Staverton—her very name suggests something that has been “staved off” or repressed just as the anima is repressed within the unintegrated male psyche—represents a projection of Spencer Brydon’s anima. As Daniel Mark Fogel points out, the name “Alice” may be significant as well, since it “derives at its root from the Greek word for truth, aletheia, which is consonant with Alice’s part in leading Brydon toward new truths about himself . . .” (202). Like May Bartram, Alice Staverton symbolizes the female aspect of the male protagonist’s unconscious mind.

If Alice represents Spencer Brydon’s opposite-sex other, then the alter ego that he is stalking like “big game” during his frequent, late-night visits to his family home symbolizes his same-sex other, or shadow. The house located on “the jolly corner” represents the site of potential integration of the repressed elements of Brydon’s psyche. A large, dark, and cavernous space, Brydon’s childhood home is an emblem of the unconscious—it is the perfect place for confronting the shadow. The back of the house, in particular, suggests the unconscious mind:

[T]he rear of the house affected him [Brydon] as the very jungle of his prey. The place was there more subdivided; a large “extension” . . . where small rooms for servants had been multiplied, abounded in nooks and corners, in closets and passages, in the ramifications especially of an ample back staircase over which he leaned many a time, to look far down . . . . (326, my emphasis)6

Braver than John Marcher, Brydon always begins the hunt for his “beast,” or shadow, by actively patrolling all of the rooms of the house in succession, a process that he imagines to strike fear in the heart of his adversary. When he returns to the house after a three-night absence, however, he senses that the beast has “turned,” that it now hunts him. In an aggressive, masculine response to his growing fears, Brydon determines to do “concentrated conscious combat” with the horrific presence using “the light he had set down on the mantel of the next room” as “his sword” (328-29). The geography of the battleground is significant:

The door between the rooms was open and from the second another door opened to a third. These rooms, as he remembered, gave all three upon a common corridor as well, but there was a fourth, beyond them without issue save through the preceding. (329)

This arrangement of the four rooms closely parallels Jung’s description of a “meeting with one’s own shadow”: “The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well” (Basic 305). While contemplating the door to the fourth room, Brydon receives a “violent shock” upon his recognition that this door had “been closed since his former visitation, the matter probably of a quarter of an hour before” (329). He experiences extreme terror at the thought that his alter ego had closed the door—in actuality, it is Brydon’s own fear of the unknown that causes the door he opened by initiating contact with the unconscious to fly shut.

Unable to face the shadow lurking behind the door, Brydon makes a pact of surrender with his “intimate adversary.” He then flees to the opposite side of the house and opens “half a casement, one of those in the front” in an effort to effect “a sharp rupture of his spell” (331). Having been consumed by emotion and irrationality, he tries to reorient himself by observing the street outside the house. He imagines making his escape from the nightmarish landscape of the unconscious by means of an imaginary ladder or cable affixed to the window, or even by means of a suicidal leap into the outside world of consciousness. As Jung says, “when animus and anima meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction” (Aspects of the Feminine 172). Brydon remains in this anima-initiated reverie from perhaps 1:30 a.m. until almost dawn.

As day nears, Brydon, again shrinking from a direct inspection of the fourth door, breaks blindly for the downward staircase leading to the outer door of the house. His descent is described in terms closely associated with the unconscious, the anima, and the shadow:

The house, withal, seemed immense, the scale of space again inordinate; the open rooms to no one of which his eyes deflected, gloomed in their shuttered state like mouths of caverns; only the high skylight that formed the crown of the deep well created for him a medium in which he could advance, but which might have been, for queerness of colour, some watery under-world . . . At the end of two flights he had dropped to another zone, and from the middle of the third, with only one more left, he recognised the influence of the lower windows, of half-drawn blinds, of the occasional gleam of street-lamps, of the glazed spaces of the vestibule. This was the bottom of the sea, which showed an illumination of its own and which he even saw paved—when at a given moment he drew up to sink a long look over the banisters—with the marble squares of his childhood. (333, my emphasis)

If the house as a whole represents consciousness, then the phrases “shuttered state” and “half-drawn blinds” may allude to closed or partially closed eyelids. Moreover, images of depth, and of dark, cavernous spaces symbolize the unconscious, as do images of water. Thus, John Irwin describes this descent of the staircase as “Evoking the descent of the self into the narcissistic pool” (16). These same images of cavernous spaces and water suggest the feminine as well because they recall the womb and amniotic fluid. Indeed, the world of the shadow, as described by Jung, is “the world of water, where all life floats in suspension” (305).

Not surprisingly, at the bottom of the staircase, Brydon finds an open door and a mysterious apparition blocking his escape. The figure is, “Rigid and conscious, spectral yet human, a man of his own substance and stature” (334). A pair of raised hands masks the figure’s face, as if it were “buried . . . for dark deprecation.” Brydon’s reaction to this apparition clearly identifies it as a projection of his shadow: “he could but gape at his other self in the other anguish, gape as a proof that he standing there for the achieved, the enjoyed, the triumphant life, couldn’t be faced in his triumph” (335). Barbara Hardy correctly refers to this alter ego figure as Brydon’s “violent, inferior, jealous, unlived and unchosen identity” (“Jolly” 193). Jung’s observation about shadow projections—“Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face” (Aspects of the Feminine 166)—seems particularly appropriate to this scene. Indeed, although one of the masking hands of Brydon’s alter ego “had lost two fingers which were reduced to stumps, as if accidentally shot away, the face was effectually guarded and saved” (335). Courtney Johnson maintains that the alter ego’s amputated fingers represent “castration anxiety” (351), that the “strength” of the protagonist’s personality lies in a proper “acceptance of [his] masculinity” (356), and that the story “exhibits a benign development” through Brydon’s “discover[y] of an adult relationship with Alice,” with whom he has always been unconsciously in love (358-59). Alternatively, the removed fingers could indicate a painful separation from the mother and her breasts. I would argue, however, that the two missing fingers symbolize the unintegrated anima and shadow because of James’s focus on those patterns of imagery in the remainder of the tale.

For example, when the alter ego at length uncovers his face, Brydon confronts with horror a shadow figure—a “bared identity [that] was too hideous as his”—who is “evil, odious, blatant, vulgar” (335). Buckling under the strain of the encounter, Brydon falls into a swoon. Upon reviving, he becomes “conscious . . . of tenderness of support and more particularly, of a head pillowed in extraordinary softness and faintly refreshing fragrance.” Alice Staverton, seated on the bottom step of the staircase, “had made her lap an ample and perfect cushion to him” (336). Of course, the fact that his head rests in her lap recalls the emergence of the head from the mother’s genital region during childbirth. As Ellen Tremper suggests, the type of relationship ultimately achieved between Alice Staverton and Spencer Brydon is “that of a mother and son rather than that of lovers” (74) because Staverton is Brydon’s “symbolic mother, responsible for his rebirth” (73). Courtney Johnson elaborates on this point by observing that Alice is not only “a reflection of all things associated with the feminine—with hearth, home, family and mother” (349), but also “the agent who awakens the latent something in [Brydon]” (357). Indeed, Brydon’s sudden appreciation of feminine softness, fragrance, and tender, almost motherly care points toward a level of comfort with the anima. Likewise, his reference to his “‘old’ life and relation” with Alice Staverton and his declaration of debt to her—“You brought me literally to life” (337)—indicate a successful integration of the anima.

Although Brydon remains in fear of his shadow, hope arises from the fact that Alice Staverton, or the anima, maintains a strong and uncritical relationship with Brydon’s alter ego, or shadow. She accepts the shadow figure, in all of his ugliness, “for the interest of his difference” and because she pities him. The shadow appears to her at the same time that it appears to Brydon, but with a different purpose: “And when this morning I again saw I knew it would be because you had—and also then from the first moment, because you somehow wanted me. He seemed to tell me of that” (339). The successfully integrated anima, then, is to serve as a liaison between the shadow and the conscious persona as Brydon works toward complete integration. This endeavor holds considerable promise for success given Jung’s assertion that a positive relationship with the anima may spur the male psyche on “to the highest flights.”

The hopeful ending of “The Jolly Corner” comes as somewhat of a surprise after the bleak conclusion of its companion-piece, “The Beast in the Jungle.” The two tales share subject matter, themes, and patterns of imagery: both stories deal with the processes of psychological integration as dramatized by a male-female pairing; both touch upon themes of greed or selfishness and repressed potentialities; both use water imagery to symbolize the anima and beast imagery to describe the shadow.

Despite these similarities, the tales reach radically divergent conclusions that demonstrate an evolving pattern in James’s thought. A careful examination of the final scene in each story indicates that the difference in outcome is dependent on the success or failure of the male protagonist’s relationship with his anima. The closing episode of “The Beast in the Jungle” occurs at May Bartram’s graveside:

[T]he bitterness [of Marcher’s life experience] suddenly sickened him, and it was as if, horribly, he saw, in the truth, in the cruelty of his image, what had been appointed and done. He saw the Jungle of his life and saw the lurking Beast; then, while he looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, huge and hideous, for instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid it, he flung himself, on his face, on the tomb. (312)

The final note sounded by “The Beast in the Jungle” is one of bitterness, despair, and terror; the scene depicts a painful and permanent separation of Marcher from his anima. In contrast, “The Jolly Corner” ends with a mutual affirmation on the part of Spencer Brydon and Alice Staverton. Speaking of his ghostly alter ego, Spencer says to Alice, “He has a million a year . . . But he hasn’t you” (340). As the anima figure who will facilitate Brydon’s shadow integration, Alice temporarily reassures him by saying, “And he isn’t—no, he isn’t—you!” (340). By way of response, Brydon draws her to his breast in a gesture that can be interpreted as both maternal and affectionate. Unlike John Marcher, Spencer Brydon has come to his realization just in time.


1 Several critics have undertaken readings of “The Beast in the Jungle” that are psychoanalytic in approach, but which draw on the theories of Freud or Lacan rather than Jung.  Stephen Reid, for example, focuses on the Oedipal conflict and describes Marcher’s condition as “phobic”; Barry Stampfl interprets the story through the lens of Freud’s 1925 essay on “Negation”; Adrianne Kalfopoulou attributes the failure of Marcher and May’s relationship to the former’s narcissism and the latter’s voyeurism; and James Mellard discusses the “mirror-stage identifications” of “The Beast in the Jungle’s” “dominant fictional subject” in terms of Lacan’s “notion of the subject’s ‘countable unity.’”

2 Yet another alternative reading arises if one considers that the “buried treasure” that has been so carefully hoarded could represent feces and the water urine, which would indicate a lack of maturity beyond Freud’s anal phase (as exemplified by toilet training).  Interestingly, both Jungian and Freudian interpretations suggest a stalled state of development for Marcher.

3 In her essay which focuses on issues of miscegenation and passing, Stephanie Hawkins argues that the “psychological horror” of the texts “emerges from a physiological horror of encountering an earlier genetic forebear concealed within the self” (276).  Russell Reising views Alice Staverton as a type of the New Woman who is “fully Brydon’s cultural, if not his social and financial, equal,” and who symbolizes “the emergence of a new political strategy for American women” (52).  Nicola Nixon considers the economic themes and resonances within the tale.  Eric Savoy, in “The Queer Subject of ‘The Jolly Corner,’” suggests that Spencer Brydon is a “self-knowing ‘gay’ bachelor” (3), that Alice Staverton represents the “agent of heterosexual compulsion” (19), and that the dark double represents “the version of Spencer Brydon who would have been available for marriage and middle-class domesticity” (14).  Numerous critics have interpreted the story in light of Spencer Brydon’s expatriation and subsequent return to the mother land.  In one such reading, Daniel Mark Fogel concludes that “Brydon . . . accepts the best in his American identity when he is reborn to reciprocal love with Alice, even as he rejects the worst in the national character in his revulsion from the spectre” (196).

4 Deborah Esch, for example, explores a number of biographical details that parallel the events of “The Jolly Corner.”  Joseph Lichtenberg seeks the source of the story in James’s own dream which took place in the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre.  Lichtenberg concludes that the “latent content” of both the dream and the story concerns “phallic assertiveness in its many permutations and deals with anal-regressive and homosexual elements as well as deep wishes to penetrate in glory and safety within the female’s mysterious house and jolly corner” (108).  Ellen Tremper describes “The Beast in the Jungle,” “The Jolly Corner,” and “The Aspern Papers” as stories in which Henry James explores “the problem, for him, of the ability to love” (59).  Further, she likens the plots of these three tales to the processes of psychoanalysis, asserting: “For the individual who enters into analysis may go this route: Beginning with a certain self-blindness, he may hunt in his past for an explanation of his ego, and achieve a breakthrough when he accepts himself, which has the effect of freeing him to love others as well” (60).  According to Tremper, the three tales represent “distinct stages in the ‘cure’ of such an individual, and, by extension, of Henry James” (60). 

5 Alternatively, this shared understanding could indicate a regressive return to the undifferentiated stage of development when infants are sure that all external people and objects are part of themselves.  

6 This emphasis on the “nooks,” “corners,” and “passages” in the “rear of the house” serves to reinforce the anal imagery in the previously discussed passage about hoarding buried treasure, as does the name of the house in “The Beast in the Jungle”—Weatherend.

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To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Sandra S. Hughes "The Buried Life: Shadow and Anima in James’s “The Beast in the Jungle” and “The Jolly Corner”". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available July 19, 2024 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: April 17, 2008, Published: December 31, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Sandra S. Hughes