The Beast in the Jungle is the story of John Marcher, who believes he is destined for a special fate. This conviction is so profound that instead of delving into life, Marcher chooses to live at life’s fringe, waiting for this special event to occur. When, at the end of his life, Marcher decides that he was mistaken in his conviction, and that nothing of momentous import was in fact to be his destiny, he is left a broken man.
In "The Beast in the Jungle," Henry James attempts to make a formidable dramatic action out of what he calls in one of his most interesting prefaces "a great negative adventure." The point of the story is the pointlessness of John Marcher’s subordination of reality to his belief that a unique and possibly terrible destiny awaits him.