Contrast of Women Characters in The Return of the Native

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      Hardy's portrayal of human characters are within a limited range. His portrayal of women characters are of wide range than that of the male characters. Hardy's portraits of women are superb and are perfectly realistic and convincing. His most successful women characters include Marty, Bathsheba, Thomasin, Mrs. Yeobright, Eustacia and Tess. Hardy's sensibility to feminine charm and his power to discriminate its distinguishing quality are the chief means by which he makes his heroines live, whether it is Fancy's wilful innocent coquetry, or Bathsheba's ardent glowing smiles and tears, or Anne's demure rural neatness, or Eustacia's somber gorgeousness. "The violent or ambitious natures are more opulent and impressive in their demeanors; mood follows mood, they are always in a state of revolution against themselves; the quiet or constant natures are more refined and proud in their bearing, they suffer, but in silence and with strength. Not one of them all is a copy of another, but these are the general distinctions to be traced among them."

Important Women Characters

      Eustacia, Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright are the three important women characters in The Return of the Native. The contrast between the three is striking and offers interesting studies. A minor woman character is Susan Nunsuch, who belongs to the rustic group and represents the superstitious beliefs of the rustic group.

Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright

      From the very outset of the story itself, we can experience, the antagonism between Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright. Mrs. Yeobright ardently opposed the idea of Clym to marry Eustacia. For her Eustacia is an "idle and Voluptuous" kind of woman. She says to Clym: "Is it best for you to injure your prospects for such a voluptuous, idle woman as that? Don't you see that by the very fact of your choosing her you prove that you do not know what is best for you?" Eustacia is very well aware of the strong hostility of Mrs. Yeobright to her. Mrs. Yeobright is a highly' orthodox, seasoned, shrewd, practical woman with a sound knowledge of human nature. It is obvious when she handles Wildeve after he has failed to marry Thomasin on the first occasion. Again, her assessment of Eustacia is correct. To her, Eustacia is completely unworthy to become the wife of a gentleman. The only similarity that exists between them is that they are both rigid and obstinate in the positions they have taken up, and they are both disinclined to yield to any external pressures.

      Hardy has given so much attention to portraying Eustacia. Hardy's vivid, imaginative and picturesque description of Eustacia is marvelous, and in the richness and splendor of which every phrase is salient and arresting. The method of conveying Eustacia's splendor is suggestive, like that adopted by Marlowe in conveying to us the exquisite loveliness of Helen in his play Doctor Faustus. We can even contrast it with Enobarbus's description of Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The barge she sat was like a burnished throne, burned in the water, The poops were beaten gold, purple the sails The chapter Queen of Night overflows with the imagination of Hardy. Hardy says in this chapter: "Her presence brought memories of such things as Bourbon roses, rubies and tropical midnight; her moods recalled lotus-eaters and the march in Athalie; her motions, the ebb and flow of the sea; her voice, the Viola. In a dim light, and with a slight rearrangement of her hair, her general figure might have stood for that of either of the higher female deities. 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 respectively, with as close an approximation to the antique as that which passes muster on many respected canvases."

      On the other hand, Thomasin is nowhere near the splendor and glamour of Eustaica. She has a simple rural charm and is described as having a fair, sweet and honest country face reposing in a nest of wavy chestnut hair. Her face is "between pretty and beautiful." She is gentle, modest, humble, affectionate, and sensitive to the opinions of her neighbors and others while Eustacia is haughty, proud, vain of her beauty, reserved, somewhat mysterious and indifferent to public opinion. On some occasions, she shows the firmness of her mind like that in her rebelliousness against her aunt in her decision to marry Wildeve despite her aunt's opposition, but on the whole she is a passive kind of character, hardly able to endure the situation, and is almost on the verge of collapse at the turn of events. At the outset of the story, when Wildeve is unable to marry Thomasin, she is heart broken, the chief reason for her sorrow being her fear of what people will say.

      In comparison with Eustacia, Thomasin is certainly a homely girl cut out to make an excellent home-spun which Eustacia can never be. Eustacia's mind is haunted by the thoughts of a better living in Paris. She hates the life in Egdon. On Egdon Heath she says "Tis my cross, my shame and will be my death."


      Egdon Heath partially affects the destinies of these characters. It is cruel to the old woman and she calls it "a ridiculous old place", but she is yet quite happy there because it is her natural habitat and any other environment is inconceivable for her. Eustacia too finds her death in Egdon. At the end, it is Thomasin who turns happy, leading a contented life with Diggory Venn.

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