An Introduction to The Return of The Native

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      The novel The Return of the Native opens with the description of Egdon Heath. Hardy is famous for nature description. His pictorial opening is famous. The chief character, he introduces in the opening is Egdon Heath. This environment influences the destinies of the inhabitants as they are helplessly looking on the action of Fate upon them. It is indifferent to the sufferings and misfortunes of the people. Egdon Heath symbolizes the whole cosmic order, in which man is but an insignificant particle. In this novel man is helpless against the invisible mysterious power of Nature. The novel tells the history of two or three people who are conscious of the dilemma in which nature has placed them and who try now and again to play their own parts in the life to which they have been condemned, and it is a novel where individual assertions end in futility each time.

Important Characters

      Clym Yeobright, Eustacia Vye and Wildeve are the most important characters in the novel. Though the novel ends with a happy note with Venn marrying Thomasin, Eustacia is disgruntled, with life to the point of morbidity, entangled in a secret love affair with the local inn-keeper Wildeve. Wildeve here acts almost as a foil to the lives of Clym, Eustacia and Thomasin. His interference resulted in the deaths of Mrs. Yeobright and Eustacia, and finally he has to sacrifice his own life. Another character which resembles Wildeve is Dr. Fitzpiers in The Woodlanders, who after marrying Grace, goes after Felice. Clym Yeobright is the one who 'returns'. He hates the materialistic attitudes of the people in the city. So, he is coming back to his native place to start a school and thus, to do some service to his people. Eustacia on the other hand hates the life in Egdon Heath. She loves the pompous life in a big city like Paris. While Clym prefers simplicity in life, Eustacia prefers the colorful aspect of the city life. Naturally, their married life is not successful. Both live in two extremities and unless one or the other gives way, they will drift further and further apart.

Hardy's Craftsmanship

      Both Clym and Eustacia are symbols of humanity in the hands of some power against which it is vain to struggle. Hardy's genius lies in the fact that each of his greater novels are his portrayal of general human situation. This is summed up here in the firm opposition of inner or outer circumstances to the desires of two people who would like to be free agents but who can only struggle blindly and convulsively in the net of destiny. Hardy leaves the decision for the reader, whether the hostile influences are external to man, or whether they may be regarded as the composite result of man's weakness and accumulated blunders, and the recalcitrance of crude matters. The scenery is obviously symbolic of the predicament in which humanity finds itself. As the novel's story progresses it is clear that the separation of Clym and Eustacia is inevitable because their thoughts and ambitions never meet. The graphic symbolism by which the unseen powers, whatever they may be, are shown fitfully interfering, is as necessary to Hardy's picture as was Flaubert's relentless analysis of mind and motive applied to Madame Bovary, (1857) a parallel but essentially different case from Eustacia's. Hardy's peculiar genius is in its full flow in The Return of the Native.

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