The Return of The Native: Book 1, Chapter 2 - Summary & Analysis

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CHAPTER II: Humanity Appears Upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble


A Retired Naval Officer and a Reddleman

      One day, an old man was seen walking down the road. He appeared to be a retired naval officer of some kind. He had white hair, bowed shoulders and he was wearing a glazed hat, an ancient boat-cloak, and shoes. He was walking with the aid of a silver-headed walking stick. In a distance, he saw the reddleman's van. Walking at a faster pace, as he caught up with the reddleman, the old man tried to engage him into a conversation. The reddleman however showed a disinclination to talk to the traveler. Through his questioning, the old man was only able to learn that there was a young woman inside the van who was not well. The reddleman refused to disclose any information about her other than admitting that she was quite attractive. When the reddleman said that he would make a halt there because his ponies were tired, the old man moved on.

The Figure on the Barrow

      As the reddleman was resting, his eyes spotted a motionless, lone figure on the top of the barrow in a distance. The barrow was on the top of a hill, on which rose the figure. It appeared as if the figure was an organic part of the entire motionless structure. The figure was that of a woman who could be described as the queen of solitude. The next moment the figure suddenly disappeared because a number of persons carrying furze-faggots were seen ascending the barrow.

Critical Analysis

      Hardy has given a significant title to this chapter. Human beings appear on the scene and are surrounded by troubles. We are introduced to a retired naval officer (Captain Vye), and to a reddleman (Diggory Venn). The reddleman, described in favorable terms here, as a man with a pre-possessing exterior, is basically a business-man who supplies red color to the farmers to dye their sheep. He is a man not much inclined to talk, as he does not disclose the girl's identity and by doing so he shows a certain delicacy of feeling and a certain decency. This has aroused our curiosity about the identity of the girl and her predicament.

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