The Return of The Native: Book 1, Chapter 3 - Summary & Analysis

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CHAPTER III: The Custom of the Country

Summary

Commemoration of Guy Fawke's Day

      The crowd, that had gathered on the barrow were boys and men from neighboring villages who made a pile of their furze faggots and set them on fire. It was a bonfire which could now be seen burning at various places within the bounds of the entire district. The bonfires are the direct remnants of ancient Druidical rites and Saxon ceremonies, though the custom commonly believed was the commemoration of the gunpowder plots. The fire also symbolizes a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the doming of winter, the season that brings coldness, misery and death.

Conversation of the Rustics

      Grander Cantie, who was in a gay mood and was singing and dancing away to glory, was one among the crowd gathered on the barrow. From the conversation between him and the other merry-makers, we learn about a widow, Mrs. Yeobright who had a niece, who wanted to marry an innkeeper named Wildeve. Although initially Mrs. Yeobright objected to the union and declared her opposition to the marriage in the church, but later she had given her consent. Wildeve was a good-looking, clever and a learned fellow, as wise as Yeobrights son Clym. However, Wildeve was several years older than the girl Thomasin. Members of the crowd were indulged in controversial discussion whether Wildeve would make a suitable match for Thomasin or not.

      As the bonfires began to subside, some of the men-folk in the crowd decided to go to Wildeve's inn "The Quite Woman" and congratulate him on his marriage with Thomasin which was believed to have taken place that very morning.

      The conversation next turned to the old Captain Vye and his granddaughter Eustacia, who had also lit a bonfire near their house. Eustacia was an attractive girl arid used to wear showy gowns, but she was rather strange and kept aloof from people.

Mrs. Yeobright's Arrival on the Barrow

      As the crowd was about to disperse, the reddleman appeared on the scene and started enquiring about the directions to Mrs. Yeobright's house. Having acquired the information he wanted, he went away and a few minutes later Mrs. Yeobright arrived at the spot. She was treated, by all the rustics there, with due courtesy and she was informed that a man was looking for her. Mrs. Yeobright told them that she was going to her niece's new home passing down the Anglebury Road, as her niece was to return that evening with her husband. Then she left, accompanied by one of the women, Olly.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter introduces us to the rustic characters of the novel. The conversation among the characters provides the comic element in the story. We laugh at these characters and also sympathize with them. Apart from the comedy, these rustics are also a source of information to us as regards their social matters. Finally, this chapter introduces us to one of the main characters of the novel—Mrs. Yeobright. Her normal manner among the rustic folk was somewhat reticent, the result of her consciousness of a superior communicative power.

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