The Return of The Native: Book 1, Chapter 9 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter IX: Love Leads a Shrewd Man Into Strategy


The Reddleman's Rejected Love

      The reddleman, whose real name was Diggory Venn was a dairy farmer by profession two years ago. Then, he had proposed to marry Thomasin, but she had expressed her inability to accept the proposal through a letter in which she wrote that although she liked him a lot, her aunts attitude prevented her from marrying him. From the time of receiving the letter, he had not seen Thomasin, till date when he had carried ailing Thomasin in his wagon. The rejection two years back, caused him to give up his farming and adopt the reddle trade even though he was in a good state. His wanderings as a reddleman frequently took him to Egdon Heath, and it was a comfort to him that he could be near his former sweetheart and yet remain unseen by her.

Diggory's Decision to Help Thomasin

      That day, Diggory rendered an accidental service to Thomasin at a critical juncture for the first time after her letter of refusal had been received by him. After he had met the little boy; it was natural for him to doubt the honesty of Wildeve's intentions. He resolved to do as much as he could to help Thomasin in marrying Wildeve. Diggory learned from the boy that Eustacia was responsible for Wildeve's careless attitude towards Thomasin. He began to consider Eustacia as the conspirator acting against Thomasin's happiness. He, then decided to investigate the situation little further. He hid himself at night near the spot where he expected Wildeve and Eustaia to meet. His first four nights met with failure, but on the fifth night he was rewarded when Eustacia and Wildeve met again.

The Reddleman Overheard the Conversation

      He overheard Eustacia deploring Wildeve for failing to appreciate her and for hurting her by choosing to marry Thomasin. Wildeve replied that Thomasin was an outrageously good woman and he did not want to deceive her. At the same time he wanted to remain faithful to Eustacia and realized that he was not worth the little finger of either of the two women. Eustacia, told him that he should not marry Thomasin without loving her. Wildeve also told her the reason why he could not get married to Thomasin on the appointed date. This hurt Eustacia because it meant that she had nothing to do with the postponement of the wedding. On being asked whom he found more beautiful, Wildeve said that he could not choose between the two. Wildeve toyed with her question of whether he loved her or not and said that he viewed her differently at different times. Eustacia, however, was sure that he loved her and would always be ready to marry her. At this Wildeve asked her if she would accompany him to America. Eustacia replied that although she hated the Heath and would love to leave it, his proposal about America needed consideration.

The Reddleman Decides to Meet Eustacia

      The reddleman having overheard the whole conversation decided to talk to Eustacia over her relationship with Wildeve and Wildeve’s commitment to Thomasin.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter reveals the character of the reddleman, Diggory Venn and throws some light on his background. We learn that a child's first sight of a reddleman was fearing for him: "That blood-colored figure was a sublimation of all the horrid dreams which had afflicted the juvenile spirit since imagination began. The reddleman is coming for you!' had been the formulated threat of Wessex mother for many generations." In this chapter, we learn about Diggory Venn's disappointment in love and also about the casualty in attitudes of both Wildeve and Eustacia revealing their characters to be somewhat shallow.

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