The Return of The Native: Book 1, Chapter 5 - Summary & Analysis

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CHAPTER V: Perplexity Among Honest People


Thomasin not Married

      Thomasin was full of apology for having humiliated her aunt by failing to have got married. However, she assured her aunt, that Wildeve had promised her to marry within a day or two. Explaining her aunt's inquiries, she said that something had gone wrong with the marriage license and Wildeve could not get another proper license the same day. On being asked why he himself had not brought her back, Thomasin said that, on finding that her marriage had been postponed she felt very ill and had therefore slipped away. Mrs. Yeobright resolved to get an explanation from Wildeve himself.

Wildeve's Explanation

      Mrs. Yeobright took Thomasin along with her to "The Quiet Woman" inn where they encountered Wildeve. Wildeve asked Thomasin why she had left in such a haste and refused to indulge in any further arguments with her. Wildeve then explained to Mrs. Yeobright that it was a stupid mistake on his part that interrupted the wedding that morning. The marriage license had been made for the city of Budmouth, and he had taken Thomasin to Anglebury as he had not bothered to read through the license. Due to his stay for some time at Budmouth, he originally wanted to get married there, but later he had decided to get married at Anglebury forgetting the necessity of a new license. Mrs. Yeobright said that his foolish mistake had brought a disgrace to her and would be something very unpleasant for her and her family. It was a great injury, she said, and could become a scandal. Wildeve asserted that there was no question of disgrace or scandal and also asked for her permission to speak to Thomasin alone for a few minutes.

Wildeve's Assurance

      When Thomasin and Wildeve were alone, she told him that she had suffered deeply for what had happened that day. She asked him whether he really intended to marry her. He assured her that he would marry her on Monday and that they would have to go to Budmouth for the purpose. Thomasin expressed her worries for her aunt, who thought too much of her family and also her cousin Clym, who would also be hurt. Wildeve argued that it should rather be he who should be feeling hurt as he had to work hard to win her aunt's consent to the marriage and that he had been insulted when Mrs. Yeobright had forbidden the banns. He claimed that a harsher man would have been pleased with the hold he had now acquired over Mrs. Yeobright and would probably refuse to marry Thomasin but he had no such intention to behave in that way.

The Crowd of Singers

      At that moment, the voices of rustics led by Timothy Fairway and Grandfer Cantle could be heard singing outside. Mrs. Yeobright then interrupted Wildeve and Thomasin's conversation, and angrily remarked that everybody would now come to know that the marriage had not taken place. Wildeve asked Thomasin and her aunt to stay back in that room until the crowd left, and he himself went to face the crowd. The crowd had come to congratulate him and to sing a song of welcome to the newly weds. Wildeve thanked them for their good wishes and then offered them wine. After sometime of gossip in a merry mood, Wildeve sent his guests away and returned to the inner room to meet Mrs. Yeobright and Thomasin. But he found that the two women had already left. The back window was open and evidently they had used it. Widleve laughed to himself, thought for a moment and then returned to the front room.

Wildeve Saw the Signal

      Wildeve then abruptly remembered that he had promised Oily's husband a bottle of wine. Olly's husband was ill. Getting nobody to carry the bottle, Wildeve picked it up and set out for Olly's house. As he was on his way he saw the small bonfire on Mist over Knap, the place where captain Vye and his grand-daughter lived. He understood that the bonfire was a signal to him from the woman who had lighted it and he should go and meet her. Leaving the bottle at Oily's house, he decided to respond to the signal that was the woman's invitation.

Critical Analysis

      Another important character is introduced to us, namely Wildeve, about whom we have received some sketchy information. We are suspicious, as there seems to be something fishy about the whole episode of Wildeve's failure to marry Thomasin. His behavior towards Thomasin is rather casual. Though his resentment against Mrs. Yeobright is justified as she had really insulted him, he doesn't seem to be deeply in love with Thomasin. We are not yet able to form a clear idea about Wildeve as his —decision at the end of the chapter to respond to the signal creates another suspicion in our mind. He seems to be having another affair too.

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