The Return of the Native

Introduction of The Return of the Native

The novel, The Return of the Native was written by Thomas Hardy. It was his sixth novel which appeared in a magazine as episodes and finally published in 1878. The story of the novel is set in the Wessex region, the imaginary region of Thomas Hardy’s tales. It revolves around Clym Yeobright’s return and taking up the profession of a school teacher, his mother, Mrs. Yeobright, and his cousin, Miss Thomasin Yeobright along with other characters, Diggory Venn, Eustacia Vye, and Wildeve involved in this love drama played out on Egdon Heath.

Summary of The Return of the Native

The story starts with the reddleman, Diggory Venn, who is riding with Thomasin Yeobrigth, Clym’s cousin. Thomasin is in a serious dilemma of the marriage delay on account of a clerical error. It is due to the scheming of Wildeve, who wants Eustacia to be jealous of Thomasin. He had used this strategy as a ploy. Venn, who is unrequitedly in love with Thomasin, wants to intervene and help her find the man she loves. However, when he tries to persuade Eustacia about permitting Wildeve for marrying Thomasin, it doesn’t work. When Clym arrives at Egdon Heath, Eustacia immediately turns her attention to him. She believes that he will aid her in a great escape from the suffocating Heath and take her to Paris, and live a luxurious life. She falls in absent love with him before meeting and spurns Wildeve’s advances, who turns to Thomasin and marries her. Soon Eustacia and Clym get married, though Wildeve again turns to her after both are married leading to a suspicious relationships unknown to their spouses for a long time.

Clym almost forgets to meet and share his joy with his loving mother. Though their estrangement keeps them apart, he feels guilty as he didn’t tell her about his marriage to Eustacia. This issue soon takes effect on their mental health and also the rift begins to widen between them. Eustacia continues to dream of moving to France, while Clym wants to stay at Egdon Heath to start teaching in the rural area and share his passion with the young generation. Meanwhile, Wildeve, too, starts wooing Eustacia after he wins a fortune in inheritance. Diggory Venn senses their advances during the dance. Venn also sees them when Wildeve visits Eustacia during Clym’s sleep. Misfortune soon haunts them when Mrs. Yeobright travels to see Clym. While Clym is fevered and sleeping, she doesn’t meet him. She also sees Wildeve’s presence at her son’s home and understands the situation. Heartbroken, she leaves and walks in the dreadful weather.

When Clym goes after her mother, he finds her at the last moments. She dies of dehydration and also of a snakebite during her return journey. Later, Clym comes to know about the unfortunate circumstances in which his mother has breathed her last. He immediately distances himself from Eustacia. He also comes to know about her advances to Wildeve. On the other hand, both of them plan to leave Egdon Heath and when they try, Eustacia drowns when coming to meet Wildeve. He, too, faces the same fate, when he goes to save her. However, Diggory saves Clym. Eventually, Diggory starts winning the love of Thomasin, while weak eyesight takes a toll on Clym who becomes a preacher.

Major Themes in The Return of the Native

  1. The Heath: Egdon Heath is the setting or the location but is treated as a character in the book. It becomes highly integral to the overall progress of the storyline, characters as well as their reactions to the circumstances. In the first chapter, Egdon Heath is shown as a personified object, demonstrating its complex contours in the course of the complex human drama played out there. Simultaneously, Heath could be an antagonist, as most of the characters either face obstacles in the achievement of their desires or meet their eternal abode on Heathy such as Mrs. Yeobright, while Wildeve and Eustacia both die in the end. For some, it proves a boon, as Diggory finally finds his true love, Thomasin. However, for some, it is a character that is always against them such as Eustacia who sees that Heath as a killer of her dreams.
  2. Superstition: Another major theme is the superstition, the locals believe, resides in the surroundings of Egdon Heath. For example, Susan Nunsuch, a local woman, thinks that Eustacia is a witch who is on some mission to kill somebody and tries to kill this witch through different acts such as burning her effigy. This witch-hunting continues to reverberate in the story until the end when her body floats to show that she is not a witch, though it is of no use to her now.
  3. Love: The theme of love is also tied to the theme of Egdon Heath, for all the characters love, live, and die on the heath. Eustacia is desperate to see new facets of love by changing loyalties. Her love is based on mundane reality, while Clym’s love is based on the justification of reality. Clym’s move toward her is based on the simple life, while she vies for romanticism in her life. On the other hand, Thomasin is passionate about Wildeve but later realizes that pragmatism is better than romanticism.
  4. Tradition: Tradition and modernity run through the world of Egdon Heath where traditions are giving way to modernity as Diggory Venn feels that his profession is facing a sharp decline. On the other hand, modernity is influencing Eustacia and Wildeve in breaking customs and laying down the foundations of new customs. The people of Egdon Heath also want to preserve some traditions as they still follow Druid traditions such as the May Day celebrations.
  5. Education: Education is another significant theme in that Clym’s obsession with serving the community by spreading education becomes the refrain of the novel. Although he faces stiff opposition from the heath as well as spurn from his love, he does not budge from his stand of becoming a teacher. Even Captain Vye spurns education on the ground that it would only encourage young men to engage in graffiti and nothing else, though, Hardy’s view is that his approach was unrealistic.
  6. The Oedipus Complex: The novel demonstrates the theme of the Oedipus Complex through its main character of Clym of the Yeobright family on account of his fractured yet loving relationship with Mrs. Yeobright. Mrs. Yeobright harbors great desires for her son, though, always faces disappointments when he goes against her thinking. Similarly, Mrs. Yeobrigth also does not want him to marry Eustacia, leaving the fine Parisian girls – a move that sours their relationship and ultimately leads to Mrs. Yeobright’s death when Eustacia ignores her arrival.
  7. Constancy: The theme of constancy has been reflected in the novel through different characters such as Diggory Venn and Thomasin, for the first stays loyal to Heath’s tradition, while the latter stays loyal to its lifestyle. That is why both get married in the end. Other small characters, too, demonstrate this loyalty such as Charley, the stable boy.
  8. Fate: Whether fate is pre-ordained or the people have power over it is another thematic strand the novel demonstrates. It is amply clear that Eustasica is born to act in a way that is going to bring her misfortune,  while the lesser lot embraces calmness and satisfaction such as Diggory Venn.
  9. Choice: The theme of choice looms large in the backgrounds of marriage in that whereas Eustacia fails in her first choice, Wildeve, too, follows her and both find little else to choose in the face of death, while Diggory Venn, who has patiently waited upon, finds himself having just a single choice he desired to opt for in his past.

Major Characters in The Return of the Native

  1. Eustacia Vye: Eustacia Vye is the primary character in the novel as the story mostly revolves around her. She is a passionate girl, with dreams and a very devious and unpredictable nature. She flirts with both Damon Wildeve and Clym Yeobright in search of better marriage prospects and material gains. This leads her to adopt inconstant and indecisive behavior. In the hope to change Clym for a seemingly better future in Paris, she increases the distance between him and his mother. As Clym decides to be a teacher, leaving his business, he tells her that he doesn’t want to go to Paris. She immediately turns to Wildeve, even though she is married to him. Her turn to Wildeve shows her character attracted to status, fashion, money, and power, though, she is considered an aristocratic on Edgdon Heath for having a demanding taste. She, however, becomes a victim of her own hubris when she commits suicide or drowns feeling guilty, taking Wildeve with her.
  2. Clym Yeobright: Clym is a man of simple nature and desires. He leaves his luxurious life to be a teacher and help the younger generation. At first, he is a mysterious character having just returned from Paris with ideas of spreading education at Egdon Heath. Sadly, Clym falls prey to the seductive advances of Eustacia to whom he marries despite his mother’s opposition. This marriage ruins his prospects with marrying Thomasin, his cousin, and also almost blinds him. The death of his mother due to the willful neglect of Eustacia during the visit leads him to further health issues and mental breakdown. He adopts reclusive life which takes him to furze-cutting when he does not see any feasibility of working in the education sector. His weak eyesight continues to hinder him but in the end, he resolves and becomes a priest.
  3. Damon Wildeve: Wildeve is a former lover of Eustacia. He becomes an innkeeper after failing to make fortune as an engineer.  He chooses to lead a settled life after marrying Thomasin, Clym’s cousin. However, he again becomes a victim of Eustacia’s seductive advances and continues to meet her in secrecy. As he inherits a good fortune from his father, Eustacia coaxes him to leave their partners and start a new life outside Egdon Heath. He drowns to death while saving Eustacia who commits suicide by jumping into the nearby river.
  4. Thomasin Yeobright: The cousin and fiancée of Clym, Thomasin rejects advances of Diggory Venn, who proves very loyal to her until the end of the story. She marries Damon Wildeve who leaves her for Eustacia but drowns along with her. Thomasin, then, turns to Diggory Venn to pay a tribute to his loyalty.
  5. Mrs. Yeobright: Despite being a snobbish person, Mrs. Yeobright becomes a thorn between Eustacia and Clym despite their marriage. First, she destroys the prospects of Diggory Venn and Thomasin, her niece, and then becomes a source of stigma for her son when she visits him. Eustacia does not respond to her when she arrives to see her son and tries to reconcile. After a heartbreaking incident and unable to meet or resolve her issues with Clyn, she dies of snakebite. Despite becoming a victim of fate and misunderstanding, her arrogance does not subside on account of the impacts on Thomasin’s life.
  6. Diggory Venn: Diggory Venn, though, seems a secondary character, becomes highly significant for the role he plays at the end by marrying Thomasin and waiting for her loyally. In fact, he could have taken advantage of Thomasin, had her aunt ruined this match. The non-complaining manners of this seemingly balanced person win the hearts of the readers for standing by Thomasin and also saving Clym from drowning by the end of the story.
  7. Christian Cantle: He is a superstitious young man, and a type of jester, who appears in the story to provide comic relief in the tragic saga of Eustacia and Thomasin. Mrs. Yeobrigth hires him to take guineas to Clym and Thomasin.
  8. Susan Nunsuch: As a mother of the laughingstock, Jhonny, Susan is a purely superstitious character. She has already spread a rumor that Eustacia Vye is not a human being but a witch. That is why she makes rituals of burning her effigy to make Egdon Heath pure from her bad influence.
  9. Charley: The role of this stable boy is important on account of his enamored obsession with Eustacia and her looks. He permits her to play her role in the play and when she is engaged to Clym takes care of her other affairs.
  10. Humphrey: Although he is a minor character, his role in the heath is important. He claims that his parents have signed the marriage register. He is a furze-cutter who influences Clym in his later years to turn to this profession.

Writing Style of The Return of the Native

The narrative style of Hardy in the novel, The Return of the Native, is similar to his other novels that it has been presented in the voice of a third-person omniscient narrator who looks upon the characters and tells about them, their actions and also comments upon the goodness or badness of the actions. However, the language used for this style is heavily loaded with different images presented through long and complex sentences and somewhat archaic diction, bordering formality as well as a colloquialism. However, the best thing about this language and writing style is that there is rich figurative language exactly suitable for the purpose and context.

Analysis of Literary Devices in The Return of the Native 

  1. Action: The main action of the novel comprises a love triangle of Eustacia, Clym, and Wildeve. The rising action occurs Eustacia falls in love with Wildeve and they start meeting again after she marries Clym. The falling action occurs when she commits suicide and Wildeve, too, jumps in to save her but drowns.
  2. Allegory: The Return of the Native shows the use of allegory through the characters of Eustacia as she is called the “Witch of Egdon,” while Clym seems to be its spirit and Damon Wildeve its demon or devil.
  3. Antagonist: Damon Wildeve and Eustacia both are the antagonists of the novel, as both not only cause upheavals on Egdon Heath but also in the lives of Clym, Mrs. Yeobrigth, Diggory Venn, and Thomasin.
  4. Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel.
    i. When the disguised Queen of Love appeared before Aeneas a  preternatural perfume accompanied her presence and betrayed her quality. (6)
    ii. The new moon behind her head, an old helmet upon it, a diadem of accidental dewdrops round her brow, would have been adjuncts sufficient to strike the note of Artemis, Athena, or Hera. (7)
    iii. On Olympus she would have done well with a little preparation. (7)
    iv. A profile was visible against the dull monochrome of cloud around her; and it was as though side shadows from the features of Sappho and Mrs. Siddons had converged upwards from the tomb to form an image like neither but suggesting both. (6)
    These references allude to Grecian mythical figures such as Athena, Hera, Artemis, and Olympus along with Sappho, a Grecian poet, and Aeneas, a Roman mythical figure.
  5. Conflict: The are multiple conflicts in the novel. The first one is the external conflict that is going on between Clym and Wildeve, then between Eustacia and Thomasin and Clym and Diggory Venn. The internal conflict is in the mind of Clym, Eustacia, and Wildeve.
  6. Characters: The Return of the Native presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Clym Yeobrigth and Eustacia are dynamic characters as they face huge transformations during the novel. However, the rest of the characters do not show any change in their roles such as Diggory Venn, Thomasin, and Mrs. Yeobrigth.
  7. Climax: The climax takes place when Mrs. Yeobright dies and Clym alleges that Eustacia has willfully done it as she has been committing infidelity to him and cruelty to his mother.
  8. Foreshadowing: The novel shows the following examples of foreshadowing. For example,
    i. Had the reddleman been watching he might have recognized her as the woman who had first stood there so singularly, and vanished at the approach of strangers. (Book-1, Unit-6)
    ii. The reddleman had left Eustacia’s presence with desponding views on Thomasin’s future happiness, but he was awakened to the fact that one other channel remained untried by seeing. (Book-2, Unit-11)
    iii. Eustacia’s manner had become of late almost apathetic. There was a forlorn look about her beautiful eyes which, whether she deserved it or not, would have excited pity in the breast of anyone who had known her during the full flush of her love for Clym. (Book-4, Unit-3)
    These quotes from the novel foreshadow something dark and sinister is going to happen with Clym and Eustacia.
  9. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
    i. The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the earth with the
    darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath wore the appearance of an instalment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky. (Book-1, Unit-1)
    ii. Twilight combined with the scenery of Egdon Heath to evolve a thing majestic without severity, impressive without showiness, emphatic in its admonitions, grand in its simplicity. (Book-1, Unit-1)
    iii. The afternoon was fine, and Yeobright walked on the heath for an hour with his mother. When they reached the lofty ridge which divided the valley of Blooms-End from the adjoining valley they stood still and looked round. (Book-2, Unit-3)
    These examples show the use of different images such as images of light, sound, color, and movements.
  10. Metaphor: The Return of the Native shows good use of various metaphors. For example,
    i. This obscure, obsolete, superseded country figures in Domesday. (Book-1, Unit-1)
    ii. The look was always anxious. (Book-2, Unit-1)
    iii. There escaped from Eustacia one of those shivering sighs which used to
    shake her like a pestilent blast. (Book-5, Unit-1)
    iv. Then his distress had overwhelmed him. (Book-5, Unit-1)
  11. Mood: The novel shows various moods, mostly serious in the beginning but it turns to somber and ironic when Eustacia appears on the scene and ribald and course when Father Cantel and others appear but it becomes tragic again when Eustacia and Clymb come face to face and part ways.
  12. Motif: Most important motifs of the novel include Egdon Heath, bonfire, wind, sunlight, darkness, storm, wind, water, and Rainbarrow.
  13. Narrator: The novel is narrated by a third-person narrator, who is also called an omniscient narrator. Therefore, Thomas Hardy himself is the narrator of the novel.
  14. Protagonist: Clym Yeobright is the protagonist of the novel. He is the main character and the native of Egdon Heath who returns to his homeland to live and teach there. His morality and choices make him the protagonist.
  15. Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example,
    i. A very strange one? What sort of a spirit
    did ye mean when ye said, a very strange one, Timothy?–no, no–don’t tell me.” (Book-1, Unit-2)
    ii. “Chance–’tis no chance,” she said proudly. “What can a poor man like you
    offer me, indeed?–I am going indoors. I have nothing more to say. Don’t your
    horses want feeding, or your reddlebags want mending, or don’t you want to
    find buyers for your goods, that you stay idling here like this?” (Book-1, Unit-11)
    iii. What curious feeling was this coming over her? Was it really possible that her interest in Wildeve had been so entirely the result of antagonism that the glory and the dream departed from the man with the first sound that he was no longer coveted by her rival? (Book-1, Unit-12)
    These examples show the use of rhetorical questions posed mostly minor characters such as Grandfather Cantel, Eustacia and the narrator.
  16. Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel not only shows the titular thematic strands of nativism but also of hypocrisy, duplicity, selfishness, sincerity, feminism as well as nature.
  17. Setting: The setting of the novel occurs in Hardy’s famous Wessex region on Egdon Heath.
  18. Simile: The novel shows a good use of various similes. For example,
    i. It was quite open to the heath on each side, and bisected that vast dark surface like the
    parting-line on a head of black hair, diminishing and bending away on the furthest horizon. (Book-1, Unit-2)
    ii. The driver walked beside it; and, like his van, he was completely red. (Book-1, Unit-2)
    iii. The form was so much like an organic part of the entire motionless structure that to see it move would have impressed the mind as a strange phenomenon. (Book-1, Unit-2)
    iv. She hated the change; she felt like one banished; but here she was forced to abide. (Book-1, Unit-8)
    v. The reddleman lived like a gipsy; but gipsies he scorned. (Book-1, Unit-8)
    vi. She was about half a mile from her residence when she beheld a sinister redness arising from a ravine a little way in advance–dull and lurid like a flame in sunlight and she guessed it to signify Diggory Venn. (Book-2, Unit-7)
    These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison.
  19. Symbols: The novel shows the use of symbols such as Egdon Heath which is like a living character, Paris, a symbol of sophistication and prosperity, and Rainbarrow, a symbol of ancient history and landscape.
  20. Irony: The novel shows irony through the characters of Eustacia as she desires to go to Paris and marries Clym in this hope yet he does not go and stays there. Similarly, Clym marries her with the expectation that she would help her set up his school but she leaves him when he almost loses his sight.