This reflection responds to "The Beast in the Jungle," a short story by Henry James.
Sheltered in a cove between the turbulent surf of the freshman year and the intimidating depths of the junior, sophomores have their last sustained moment of calm before going out into the ocean of life. Georgetown sophomores need to take advantage of this calm in order to fail. They have a chance to dive deliberately into something new, still distant from any lasting consequences. They swim, safe in the knowledge that their proximity to shore allows them easy return from an unsuccessful endeavor, for there is nothing done during the sophomore year that can’t be reversed. While they have this safety, they should try new things, fail, and then try yet more things. Through these failures they will define the contours of their passions, discover and repair the hidden weaknesses in their skills, and figure out how to chart their future course. But unsure of the purpose of this special year, without the societal expectations of freshmen or the blossoming wisdom of juniors, they fail to recognize their opportunity until they sail past it. Believing that their journey lies ahead, they miss the critical work of sounding themself out.
If sophomores fail to create their own charts during this year, they will find themselves adrift during their later years. Only when lost will they frantically draft their charts, all the while buffeted by the tough storms of life. If only something could serve as a lighthouse, to alert sophomores to the dangers of waiting too long to explore. Enter “The Beast in the Jungle” by Henry James. A poignant warning against putting off living, this novella should play an integral part in the sophomore experience at Georgetown. Properly framed, it would serve as a reflective touchstone to warn sophomores against waiting too long for the world to come to them. If presented at the beginning of the second year, it could ground a discussion about the purpose of the sophomore year. Hopefully, this discussion would save many sophomores from wasting their year waiting and encourage them to dive in, cognizant of their need to try and fail.