The Return of the Native-Critical Analysis

The Return of the Native-Critical Analysis-Thomas Hardy

The Return of the Native: Thomas Hardy’s famous pastoral tragedy and a sensation novel “The Return of the Native” was serially published in the illustrated monthly literary magazine “Belgravia” in 1878. It aroused great interest and curiosity in the reading public of the period due to its sensationalism and controversial themes.


The Return of the Native-Critical Analysis

It deals with the drama of human hopes, aspirations, disillusionment, and finally the role of fate and chance. Like the other novels of Thomas Hardy, “The Return of the Native” is imbued with realism and a closer study of human psychology. It concludes on the note of pessimism. It is also a novel of provincial and rustic life though sometimes the scenes are shifted from countryside to the towns.



Thomas Hardy’s novel, “The Return of the Native” presents the life of the human beings and the role of fortune dwindling in hopes and despair, partly due to their flaws and partly because of their cruel fate. All the characters in Hardy’s novel are made up of flesh and blood breathing the raw and rustic air of Egdon Heath. Sometimes, these ordinary characters behave in an uncommon and strange manner to add either to their misery or happiness.

“The Return of the Native” of Thomas Hardy begins with the gossip in the village about the marriage of Thomasin Yeobright and Damon Wildeve, who is former lover of Thomasin, an ex-engineer and publican. Owing to failures in his profession, he works at ‘The Quiet Woman’ inn as an inn-keeper.

The reader can find Damon Wildeve in a state of dilemma. He fails to decide whether to marry Thomasin or Eustacia Vye. The bond between Thomasin and Wildeve is not so strong which could sustain their relationship. It results in their breakup before they get united into wedlock. Damon Wildeve assured Thomasin that he would certainly marry her. Meanwhile, Damon Wildeve is more drawn towards Eustacia Vye. Thomas Hardy has presented a philanderer in Wildeve.

From his days in Egdon Heath, Damon Wildeve pined for his union with Eustacia but eventually he marries Thomasin who has already rejected a proposal of marriage by a resourceful and kind-hearted man, Diggory Venn. But Fate had different plans; Clym Yeobright’s arrival in Egdon Heath arouses Eustacia Vye’s curiosity. She disguises herself as male player and goes to his house to see him.

Clym Yeobright is Thomasin’s cousin and a diamond merchant in Paris. He wishes to abandon his mediocre business of a jeweller and settle in Egdon Heath. Eustacia Vye likes to get in contact with Clym so that she could escape gloomy and sombre Egdon Heath and settle in Paris.

It is important to note that Thomasin, Clym Yeobright and Diggory Venn are the three characters in the novel who are true representatives of Egdon Heath. They are strongly adhered to their native land while Damon Wildeve and Eustacia Vye are the two characters who present a contrast and like to settle in a city. Thomas Hardy has skillfully delineated characters of different likes and dislikes.

Eustacia sends a letter to Damon Wildeve refusing to see him anymore. Meanwhile, Mrs. Yeobright, Clym’s mother suspects Wildeve’s intention; she tells Wildeve that Diggory Venn is going to marry Thomasin Yeobright.

Next day, when Clym Yeobright is on his way to his friend’s house, he learns about the marriage of Thomasin and Wildeve. Clym gets information about the girl named, Eustacia Vye who has got an injury by pricking a needle by Susan, suspecting her to know about witchcraft. So Clym went to meet Eustacia Vye at Captaiin Drew’s house. Both Eustacia and Clym had a conversation at the house. He was greatly infatuated by Eustacia’s charm and beauty.

After some days, Clym resolves to marry Eustacia and abandon his lucrative business of a diamond merchant in Paris; he wants to settle in Egdon Heath with Eustacia. It is important to note that Clym’s mother strongly disapproves her son’s marriage with Eustacia. She is not much impressed by Eustacia. Mrs. Yeobright thinks of her as proud and conceited and she also has some doubts due to Eustacia’s shady past.

But Clym Yeobright is so enticed by Eustacia’s beauty that he is firm in his decision to marry her and leave his business in Paris. He wants to settle in sombre and gloomy Egdon Heath and became a school teacher. Eustacia is happy to marry Clym hoping to escape from the inactive and monotonous life in the countryside and move to Paris.

Eustacia knows nothing about Clym’s plans. All her dreams and wishes tumble down like a palace of cards after her marriage with Clym. Her much cherished dream to move to Paris comes to an unexpected end when Clym becomes a school master at Egdon Heath. Though Eustacia assured Clym that she would live with him wherever he wanted her to be, she could not completely wipe away the thought of going to Paris.

Despite Mrs. Yeobright’s disapproval and opposition, Clym shifted to a cottage and married Eustacia. It was great blow to Mrs. Yeobright; she did not even attend her son’s wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, Thomasin Wildeve came to her asking for some amount of money. Mrs. Yeobright told her that she had divided her money between Clym and her.

Mrs. Yeobright also gives some money to one Christian Cantle, a timid son of Grandfer Cantle and tells him to give the two money bags to Clym and Thomasin. But Christian Cantle is tempted to gamble the money by Wildeve. Cantle loses all his money including the two money bags given to him by Mrs. Yeobright.

At that time, Diggory Venn, gentle and humble reddleman, comes there and challenges Wildeve to gamble. Consequently, he wins all the money lost by Christian Cantle. It is important to note that Diggory Venn proposed Thomasin Yeobright but his proposal of marriage was rejected by Thomasin. Diggory Venn gives all the money to her.

Mrs. Yeobright thought that Damon Wildeve, who has won the money from Cantle, must have given all the money to Clym {Clement Yeobright}. So she comes to Clym’s house in his absence asking Eustacia whether she received any money from Wildeve. Eustacia took it otherwise and thought that Mrs. Yeobright has mentioned the name of Wildeve who was her former lover on purpose. There was a bitter quarrel between the two.

Meanwhile, Clym loses his eye-sight in the course of time and partially became blind due to excessive reading and study. So he has to do undignified and mediocre job of a furze-cutter on the heath. Destiny has once again tossed him in an adverse condition.

It is Eustacia Vye’s shrewdness which separates Clym from his mother, Mrs. Yeobright. It is important to note that many people on Egdon Heath think that Eustacia is good at witchery. Her neighbour Susan Nunsuch holds Eustacia responsible for her son, Johnny’s prolonged sickness.

So there is bitter enmity between the two. Her son Johnny has been terribly suffering from sickness. Thomas Hardy has artistically depicted beliefs and conventions of the rural rustics in the novel. The Return of the Native contains all the features of a regional novel which is known as Hardy’s Wessex novel.

Thomas Hardy has presented ‘the raw material of a divinity in Eustacia Vye whose heavenly affection, love, anger and charm’ have been thrown on the Egdon Heath.

Mrs. Yoebright wanted to reconcile with Clym. When she came to his house Clym is fast asleep. While Wildeve also came there to meet Eustacia to help her talking inside the house, Eustacia heard knocking at the door. She saw her mother-in-law from a window. She hurriedly asked Wildeve to take the back door and leave.

Meanwhile, at the second knock, Eustacia thought that her husband, who had been sleeping in the next room, must have opened the door. But he was fast asleep. When she opened the door, Mrs. Yeobright had already on her way to home. Both Wildeve and Eustacia continued their relationship though it is not approved by society.

Mrs. Yeobright was terribly shocked by grief, humiliation and fatigue. On her way home, she was stung by an adder. When Clym found her mother lying in pain on the ground he was grief stricken. She was on the verge of death. He felt guilty and thought that he was responsible for Mrs. Yeobright sorry state and her death. Eustacia also felt the same thing but soon all the clouds of confusion and secrets are cleared.

Clym comes to know that Eustacia did not open the door for his mother. He blamed her for his mother’s death. There was bitter argumentation between the two. Eustacia leaves her house and goes to her house. For the first time in the novel, the readers can find Eustacia in a destitute condition. When she finds a pistol in her grandfather’s house, she resolves to commit suicide. But she is saved by Charley, a young boy who admires Eustacia.

Eustacia resolves to leave Egdon Heath. She asks Wildeve to help her in this matter. Meanwhile, Thomasin gave birth to a girl child who was named after Eustacia. Wildeve received eleven thousand pound by one of his relatives and becomes a rich man. He decides to help Eustacia for reaching Paris. Thomasin gets a hint of her Wildeve’s motive. She told Clym that Wildeve must have planned to elope with Eustacia to Paris.

Clym sent a letter to Eustacia asking her to come back to him. The letter was received by her grandfather, Captain Drew. He thought that Eustacia must have gone to bed and he would deliver the letter to her next morning.

But Eustacia leaves the house the late evening. She comes to a place near the river. She comes to know that she hasn’t got enough money to reach Paris. Meanwhile, Susan makes a waxen effigy of Eustacia Vye and pricked it in the middle. She held Eustacia responsible for her son’s sickness. Then she puts the waxen effigy on fire. When Wildeve reaches the appointed place, he meets Clym there.

At that time, both of them heard a sound of somebody falling into the river. At Susan’s house, the waxen effigy of Eustacia has already begun to melt in the fireplace. Both Wildeve and Clym dived into the water but the powerful current of water set hurdles in their path. At that time, the reddleman, Diggory Venn reached the place finding Wildeve and Clym in the water. He saved Clym while Wildeve and Eustacia were drowned in the river.

Clement Yeobright blamed himself for the deaths of Eustacia and his mother. He became a preacher and took Thomasin and her child to his house. He also wished to marry Thomasin. But she prefers to marry Diggory Venn. He has recently started a dairy business. Clym in the beginning did not have good impression of him but ultimately he gives his consent to their marriage.

Thus, Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Return of the Native” ends on a sad note. It refers back to its hero, Clym who left Paris and came back to his land, Egdon Heath. The novelist has depicted a drama of human life which reflects variety of emotion and feeling in which fate and chance play a dominant role. “The Return of the Native” vividly displays interplay of hopes, aspirations, frustration, disillusionment and suffering of human beings.

Please Read the following Character List: 

Important Character’s in “The Return of the Native”:

Damon Wildeve: husband to Thomasin Yeobright and former lover of Eustacia Vye. Ex-engineer, and an inn-keeper of “The Quiet Woman” Inn, he is a philanderer.

Thomasin Yeobright: wife to Damon Wildeve, cousin to Clement {Clym} Yeobright

Clement {Clym} Yeobright: husband of Eustacia Vye, a diamond merchant and jeweler in Paris, settles in Egdon Heath as a schoolmaster

Mrs. Yeobright: mother to Clym Yeobright

Diggory Venn: a reddleman who sells red-ochre to farmers for sheep and cattle, he proposes Thomasin but his proposal is rejected, marries Thomasin in the end.

Captain Drew: Eustacia’s Grandfather, a former naval officer

Susan Nunsuch: neighbour of Eustacia Vye and her bitter enemy

Johnny Nunsuch: Susan’s son

Charley: works for Captain Drew and admires Eustacia Vye

Granfer Cantle: ex-serviceman {soldier}

Christian Cantle: Grandfer Cantle’s son

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