Plot Construction in The Return of The Native

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      Hardy is a master craftsman. His plots show a remarkable unity and symmetry. The unity of impression is achieved through a well-knit plot, and various love stories are so closely interwoven. The actions take place in Egdon Heath so as to produce the unity of place.

Hardy's Technique

      The opening chapter introduces Egdon Heath, one of the principal characters into the novel. The pictorial opening scene of Hardy is famous. In most of the novels of Hardy, attention has been paid to giving a vivid, picturesque portrayal of the countryside in which the major actions in the story take place. The Heath is the dark, immemorial environment whose influence controls obscurely the lives and destinies of those who dwell contentedly among us in wilderness and those who feel themselves cruelly out of their element there. After describing the plot, Hardy introduces the heroine of the novel, Eustacia Vye who is entangled in a secret love affair with the local inn-keeper, Wildeve. Eustacia, from a love affair that is growing tiresome, is stimulated by the news that Clym Yeobright is coming back from Paris. Clym and Eustacia fall in love. Clym, weary of the materialistic city life, plans to open a school in Egdon and teach something akin to Rousseau's gospel of Nature and simplicity as the antidote to artificial maladies. But Mrs. Yeobright, his mother, is strongly opposed to both the plans. She considered Eustacia to be wanton. She things that Clym must go back to Paris to continue with his job but Clym is stubborn with his objectives. This results in the separation of the mother and son. After the marriage, Eustacia continues to meet Wildeve. Mrs. Yeobright s attempt for reconciliation results in her death. Eustacia, after the quarrel with Clym leaves him and when makes an attempt to escape is drowned. At the end Clym transforms into a preacher.

Egdon Heath and its Role

      Hardy portrays the vicinity of Egdon Heath not only as a mere background but as the driving force which controls the destinies of the inhabitants in it. It influences the characters as well as the plot. For Eustacia and Clym the Heath was entirely different. Eustacia hates it "It is my cross, my shame, and will be my death," She says prophetically. But for Clym it is "exhilarating, strengthening and soothing." He too has some of its qualities, especially strangeness and remoteness. For the reddleman too the Heath seems to be good. Major actions in the story take place in the Heath and it undoubtedly adds to the richness and complexity of the story and shows also how Nature may play a hostile, though occasionally friendly, role in human affairs.

Defect in Plot

      The plot suffers from several flaws. Unconvincing accidents and coincidence were used by Hardy. It is difficult to believe that a wise woman like Mrs. Yeobright trusted a person like Christian Cantle with a considerable sum of money. The chain of coincidence is a vast one which results ultimately in the tragedy. Hardy uses coincidence as the weapon to run the story. Mrs. Yeobright plans to visit Clym at the same time when he plans to visit her. When she arrives at Clym's house Wildeve too arrives there and has a private meeting with Eustacia. These chance happenings detract from the realism of the plot, although the realism of character-portrayal remains unaffected.

      These failures are botches, but they do not ruin the work, because though large enough when measured in terms of plot they are small when seen against the vastness and the strength of the design behind the plot. Hardy's main focus is on expressing the significance of the great design in purely human terms.

Hardy's Comments

      Hardy makes a number of comments in the course of the narrative which can also be considered as a fault. For instance, speaking on the love between Mrs. Yeobright and her son, he says "He had reached the stage in a young man's life when the grimness of the general human situation first becomes clear; and the realization of this causes ambition to halt a while. In France it is not uncustomary to commit suicide at this stage in England we do much better, or much worse, as the case may be". These comments may add some philosophic interest to the play, but it is superfluous, as far as the plot-construction is considered.

University Questions

Write an essay on the plot construction of Hardy in The Return of the Native.
Bring out the merits and demerits of the plot construction in The Return of the Native.
"A powerful logic governs his creative work." Discuss on this statement by a careful analysis of Hardy's plot.

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