The Return of The Native: Book 1, Chapter 6 - Summary & Analysis

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CHAPTER VI: The Figure Against the Sky

Summary

A Lone Female Figure

      When the crowd had left the site of the bonfire on the barrow, a lone female, closely wrapped, approached the barrow. She was the same woman whom the reddleman had seen. She then returned to her own position at the top of the barrow. She was tall and straight in build, and gracefully ladylike in her movements. She did not, at all, feel bothered of being alone at a lonely place at that time of the night.

Eustacia Returned to Her own Bonfires

      As she reached the top, the woman gave a deep sigh, apparently at something in her mind and looked through a hand held telescope in the direction of "The Quiet Woman" inn. She then looked at an hour-glass placed next to her, and noticed that all the sand had slipped through. She started following a foot track and headed towards another bonfire which had attracted the attention of the group of men and women on Rainbarrow. When she reached the bonfire which was still burning, she met a little boy who had stayed back to feed the fire with pieces of wood. The boy told her that she had taken too long to come back. At that moment, her grandfather called her indoors by her name, Eustacia. She replied that she would stay out there for a little while more and asked him to go to bed. She then asked the boy to keep feeding the fire a little longer and requested him to wait for the sound of a frog jumping into the pond in order to inform her about it She also promised him a six pence in return. The boy unwilling got to his work, inwardly wanting to go home.

Wildeve Answered the Signals

      Eustacia impatiently walked away waiting for something for too long, and twice she came back and asked the boy if he had heard anything. A little later, the boy called out to her saying that he had heard the sound of a frog jumping into the pond. Eustacia at once gave him the coin and allowed him to go home. Now, the figure of a man could be seen near the pond and Eustacia uttered a low laugh. The man was Wildeve. He asked her why she had lit the bonfire to signal him to come, and why she was not leaving him alone. Eustacia replied that she had lighted the bonfire to commemorate the fifth of November (Guy Fawke's Day) just as everyone else was doing. But Wildeve argued that he believed, she had lit that particular bonfire to draw his attention, as it reminded him of a similar bonfire she had lit a year ago as a signal for him to come and meet her. Then Eustacia admitted that she indeed had that purpose in her mind and she had understood that Wildeve was still faithful to her as he did not get married to Thomasin that morning. She also said that she still loved him and forgave him for coming back to her leaving the other girl. She added that she would never have lit the bonfire if Wildeve would have married the other girl that morning as it would have been insulting to her pride. She believed that Wildeve still loved her more than Thomasin. Wildeve said that he had given up his career of engineering to become an innkeeper for her sake, and he could sink even further if he had to. Eustacia removed the shawl which was covering her face, exposing her face in the firelight and asked Wildeve if he had ever seen such a beautiful face. She expressed her sadness at his desertion of her and said that by nature she was a very melancholic person though she used to be happy at Budmouth, where she lived before moving to Egdon.

Eustacia's Vanity

      Eustacia then vainly said that she would not come to Rainbarrow to meet him anymore even if he called her or tried to tempt her. Wildeve said that, she had said much the same thing before but by nature cannot stick to her words. Eustacia then expressed that her feelings were being hurt by his words and she called him a chameleon who was showing his worst color at that moment. She claimed that she had lit the bonfire to call him only to enjoy the power she had over him. But Wildeve said that he knew her too well; he was certain that Eustacia wanted him desperately and that it was he who had drawn her to the barrow. Widleve then bowed to her saying good-bye, and left. Eustacia gave a deep sigh and shivered. She knew that she still loved Wildeve.

Critical Analysis

      The mysterious character of Wildeve is unfolded in this chapter. We now know, why his attitude towards Thomasin was so casual and indifferent. There is another woman, Eustacia in his life who is a superficial and vain type of girl. She is proud of her beauty and Wildeve cannot resist the temptation to come and meet her though he had decided to marry Thomasin.

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