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The Return of the Native
Thomas Hardy




_____ 1. A popular saying of the people of Egdon Heath was

    A. "The Quiet Woman is run by an unquiet man"
    B. "Eustacia Vye is the devil's own daughter"
    C. "No moon, no man"
_____ 2. Hardy solves the problem of exposition by
    A. letting us eavesdrop on the townsfolk
    B. writing short scenes in which Diggory Venn is featured
    C. flashbacks
_____ 3. Eustacia's signal to Damon Wildeve was
    A. the flowerpot in her window
    B. a bonfire
    C. the ship's flag over Captain Vye's roof
_____ 4. Thomas Hardy describes Eustacia as
    I. "the raw material of a divinity"
    II. possessed of "Pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries"
    III. "heaven paying a visit to Earth"
    A. I and II only
    B. II and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 5. Eustacia confesses that her great desire is
    A. "to have a man destroy himself for her love"
    B. "to be loved to madness"
    C. "to have Wildeve beg to touch the hem of her gown"
_____ 6. Diggory Venn became a reddleman because
    A. he was too poor to have a farm
    B. Thomasin had rejected his marriage proposal
    C. he loved to breathe the air of Egdon Heath
_____ 7. Before Eustacia actually met Clym Yeobright, she dreamed about a man
    A. in silver armour
    B. on a white charger
    C. who tamed wild animals
_____ 8. When Thomasin finally married Wildeve, she was given away by
    A. Diggory Venn
    B. Eustacia Vye
    C. Clym Yeobright
_____ 9. Tradition is utilized by Hardy in the form of
    I. Guy Fawkes Day
    II. Christmas mumming
    III. Maypole festivities
    A. I and III only
    B. II and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 10. The background for Clym's proposal to Eustacia was
    A. the singing of the chorus
    B. an eclipse
    C. the sheep shearing ritual

11. Describe in detail the moral code that the people of Egdon Heath live by (or claim to). What behavior is considered decent, and what is considered unacceptable?

12. To what extent is Eustacia responsible for her tragic end, and to what extent is it influenced by the fate (or chance) that seems to operate so strongly in her life?

13. Explain in detail how Hardy uses images from nature to underscore, amplify, or anticipate the events of his story. Use at least five different examples.

14. Why are there so many references to ancient myth in the novel? Do these references give added dimension to the story, in your view, or do they distract from the action? How do they work, if in fact they do?

15. Diggory Venn is not a believable character, unless he is a supernatural being. Explain in full and use examples from the novel.


_____ 1. Mrs. Yeobright's trust, his plans to be a teacher, and Eustacia's happiness are problems which

    A. Clym must reconcile
    B. Clym's goals in life
    C. Clym's reasons for abandoning Paris
_____ 2. A major theme of this novel is
    A. the universe's indifference toward mankind
    B. the path of true love never does run smooth
    C. the best laid plans often go astray
_____ 3. Eustacia was hurt when
    A. the 100 guineas were given to Thomasin
    B. she heard Clym singing as he cut furze
    C. she learned about the dice game by firelight
_____ 4. Mrs. Yeobright was denied admission to Clym's house because
    A. Eustacia refused to see her
    B. of a misunderstanding
    C. it would have been embarrassing to Eustacia
_____ 5. Mrs. Yeobright characterized herself to Johnny Nunsuch as
    A. "one who has seen the devil in petticoats"
    B. "a broken-hearted woman cast off by her son"
    C. "a devotee of anguish"
_____ 6. Thomasin's baby was named
    A. Eustacia Clementine
    B. Rose of Sharon
    C. Heather Angel
_____ 7. Eustacia's young admirer, Charley,
    A. arranged for her to leave the heath
    B. hid the pistols
    C. offered to defend her against Clym
_____ 8. The superstitious Susan Nunsuch
    A. talked "in tongues" against Eustacia
    B. predicted the disaster after reading the tea leaves
    C. burned a wax effigy of Eustacia
_____ 9. The entire action of the novel takes place
    A. within a year and a day
    B. between Clym's 26th and 29th birthdays
    C. in the course of two full years on Egdon Heath
_____ 10. The closing sentence of the novel contains these words:
    A. "He was a romantic martyr to superstition"
    B. "But everywhere he was kindly received"
    C. "He might have been called the Rousseau of Egdon"

11. The world of this novel is neither entirely Christian nor entirely pagan. Discuss.

12. To many readers, the hero of the novel is Clym Yeobright. Giving at least three examples, discuss the ways in which Hardy focuses the book on him.

13. How is humor used in the novel? Choose at least three examples and explain their effect upon the action, the reader or the theme.

14. Hardy's use of coincidence is so artificial that his ideas about fate and free will cannot be taken seriously. Referring to at least three incidents in the novel, discuss this topic.

15. Not excluding Eustacia, Hardy's women characters lack real depth. They are passive, conventional, and incapable of growth. Agree or disagree, using examples from the text.


  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. A
  5. B
  6. B
  7. A
  8. B
  9. C
  10. B

11. Most of our knowledge of Egdon's prevailing moral code comes indirectly from the words, thoughts, and actions of those who care most about what other people think: Thomasin, of course, and Mrs. Yeobright. Go back and study what bothers them about Thomasin and Wildeve's first marriage attempt, for example, or look at Mrs. Yeobright's reaction to the rumors about Eustacia and Wildeve. But morality is not just a matter of appropriate conduct between men and women. What do the common people say about family responsibilities, about religion, about friendship? What do their actions show about communal loyalty? It might also be useful to look at the thoughts of those who seem to defy public morality. What, exactly, does Eustacia or Wildeve do that is inappropriate? And what does each refuse to do, because of a lingering belief in the morals of the day?

12. This question has no easy answer, and you may enjoy arguing both sides. In the eyes of many readers, Hardy himself wants to have it both ways. The way to approach this question is to look at Eustacia's crucial moments of decision, critical turning points in the action. What brings on tragedy- Eustacia's willfulness or an accidental turn of events? Is she forced to act in certain ways, or is she trapped by circumstances? Take several examples- her decision to marry Clym, her decision not to open the door for Mrs. Yeobright, her decision to leave with Wildeve, her decision to commit suicide in the end. In each case, discuss the relationship between Eustacia's will, her desire, and the actual options open to her. The question of any possible "guilt" is not the issue here, but "responsibility" is. You will want to re-read, too, what Eustacia herself felt about the issue.

13. Each reader will have his or her own favorite examples of Hardy's use of natural imagery. For variety, however, you will want to choose at least one that predicts the course of events, as for example when the wind moans through the trees at Devil's Bellows just before Mrs. Yeobright is turned out to her death. You will also want to write about the use of nature to mirror a character's mood, as on the dreary day when Clym leaves home to find a cottage for Eustacia and himself. You will want to talk about natural imagery used as symbol, as when the lush green ferns are used to symbolize the fervent young love of Clym and Eustacia. The most challenging and interesting natural symbol is, of course, the heath itself. It will be well worth the effort to go back through the novel and decide for yourself how this important symbol is used, how it changes, and whether or not it is finally effective.

14. If you enjoy mythology and ancient history, you may readily understand Hardy's purposes in using so many classical references. Looking particularly at his descriptions of the heath or of Eustacia, you will see that his principal technique is to make a parallel. What would we think of the characters and events of the novel, if these ancient comparisons were not used? You do not, by the way, have to agree that Hardy is always successful; you might decide that some allusions work well, others do not. No matter what you judge to be the case, be sure to explain why you have come to your conclusions. Some readers feel that the classical references raise a simple country tale to the level of epic. You may want to add your own opinion on this score.

15. Concentrate on the unusual aspects of Venn's character and upon his unusual abilities, as demonstrated many times in the story. Think of how the other characters react to him, as when Eustacia cannot believe that anyone would love as unselfishly as he seems to love Thomasin. What about his magical capacity for turning up just in the nick of time? Think how different the story would be if he did not show up; in other words, does he act as a kind of agent for good? If Diggory is supernatural, his powers are certainly limited; you can point to many occasions when he cannot change someone's mind. You will find much to talk about in the nighttime gambling scene with Wildeve, however. Also, consider Hardy's use of symbols associated with Diggory. Finally, discuss how Hardy's original ending for the novel affects your view of Diggory.


  1. A
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. B
  6. A
  7. B
  8. C
  9. A
  10. B

11. When do the people of Egdon go to church, and what happens when they do? Are their major celebrations Christian, pagan, or a blend of the two? When strange and terrible events occur, do these people tend to call on the Christian God or do they fall back on ancient superstitious beliefs? The answers to these questions are closely related to this topic. Remember that Christianity can be interpreted differently by different believers. You will also want to look at the actions of the main characters, at their reactions to the bad things that happen to them, and judge whether or not they behave and think as Christians do. (Most of Hardy's original readers, of course, would have thought of themselves as believing, practicing Christians, and that fact may have affected his portrayal of Christian ideas.) Look at Clym and his ministry. How does he resemble Christ, and how does he differ? Does he decide to preach the 11th Commandment because it is basic to Christian belief?

12. To write this essay, you must decide what a hero is: the most interesting character, the one who changes the most, or the one who represents the author's ideas? Refer to the major events of the book and show how they relate to Clym and to his development as a human being. Explain Clym's relationship with Hardy's important unifying symbol, the heath. Do you see a comparison between the author's voice, which we hear clearly so often, and the thoughts of Clym? Think, too, of the end of the novel. It is Clym's life, alone, that seems to continue to grow and enlarge, leaving the reader behind. How does the sadness that has settled upon Clym mirror Hardy's own attitude toward the action of the novel? You may also want to discuss how Hardy puts the character he respects most to the severest tests.

13. Humor is very difficult to write about. Nonetheless, you will find that there is more than one kind of humor in this novel, and you can compare them. There is the lively joking of the country folk; there is the biting sarcasm used by major characters when they are under stress; and there are at least two kinds of humor directly from the author- his ironic comments to the reader, and his manipulation of the plot for grotesquely comic effects. Like Shakespeare, Hardy sometimes uses humor for "comic relief", to give our emotions a rest from the tension of tragedy. He also uses humor, which is an attention-getting device, to emphasize his themes.

14. Coincidence occurs frequently in the story, but you will want to choose only important moments. Probably the most important incident is when Mrs. Yeobright stands at the closed door at Clym's cottage, but there are the others- Clym's return just when Eustacia is considering Wildeve's proposal, the raffle which Christian wins at The Quiet Woman, Charley's lighting of Eustacia's bonfire. These incidents may be intended as examples of fate, but are they believable in terms of the story? You may want to explain how the chance occurrences of the plot are intended, in your view, to work upon the reader; for example, what happens to the reader's emotions when one of the coincidences is about to have an important effect upon the action? You may also want to define "fate" and "free will" in your own terms, so that your argument will be clearer.

15. For such a topic, as you discuss the women characters, compare them with the men; in other words, consider also just how interesting and profound the male characters are. Note that Clym, Wildeve, and Diggory have certain advantages given them by society- education, an inheritance, and freedom of action, respectively. You will want to explain both men and women in terms of the values of the world in which they live. Why is Eustacia considered mannish? Why do we see Mrs. Yeobright almost entirely in her role as mother? How does Thomasin change after marriage? To discuss the women is to discuss their place in society, so point out those occasions when their actions are hampered by convention. You will also want to discuss the thoughts of the women, so far as we know them. Are they limited by lack of education or experience? And what about the women's moral depth? You can find many examples of decent motive and behavior which show a largeness of soul in Thomasin, for instance, that even the idealistic Clym cannot really match.

[The Return of the Native Contents]


  1. Is Wildeve guilty of great wrongdoing, or is he the victim of fate? Using examples from the novel, explain how each interpretation is almost equally defensible.
  2. In what ways, and for what reasons, does Hardy distinguish Eustacia from the Egdon natives?
  3. How does a character's relationship to the bare surroundings and the simple village of Egdon Heath life reveal truths about the character?
  4. Compare Eustacia with Thomasin. Why would Damon and Clym be attracted to both of them?
  5. What are the good and the bad qualities of Damon? of Eustacia? of Diggory?
  6. Discuss the character of Christian. How is he used to place the other characters in perspective?
  7. What is the function of the scenes that involve only the rural bystanders? Show how they are important to the central story.
  8. To some, Egdon Heath is more than a dramatic setting; it is a major character in the novel. How does the heath play a role in the action? In what ways does it affect the human characters?
  9. Hardy portrays the Wessex countryside as ancient yet timeless. Why does he refer so frequently to prehistoric times? What is he saying, if anything, about the present and the future?
  10. How does Hardy use weather, seasonal changes, and natural objects to develop characters in this novel?
  11. Many readers have viewed Hardy as a pessimistic writer, but he testily denied the label. What do you think is his philosophical point of view? Does he portray a just world?
  12. What role does money play in the novel? Think of the effect it has upon, for example, Christian, Damon and Eustacia. How many unfortunate things happen because of lack of money? Does Hardy consider money itself an evil?
  13. Almost every reference to marriage in the novel is ironic or bitter. Is Hardy criticizing the institution itself? Explain how marriage is an important theme in the narrative. Explore its importance in the society of Egdon Heath.
  14. What does Hardy believe about passion as opposed to reason in human affairs? Does he think passion is always dangerous or wicked? What is his view of romantic love?
  15. Is the novel completely "realistic," or can some events be explained only as the result of the influence of the supernatural? To what extent, for instance, does Hardy intend for us to believe the supernatural associations with Eustacia and Diggory?

[The Return of the Native Contents]


A famous and racy country song

A big, long-legged game bird

A particularly lively and graceful horse

An expert

Domesday Book, an ancient British record of land values and ownership compiled in 1086

A dark evergreen shrub found on wastelands

A scarecrow

A small, very hardy horse

A large open area of wasteland; a moor

The top of a hill

The 1st of August (Lammas Day), traditional celebration of the first harvest

The 29th of September, feast day of St. Michael and the beginning of autumn

Masked actors in Christmas pantomimes

A curve shaped like an S

The last resort

Crown jewel of the last kings of France

A skeleton

An orange-red dye used on sheep

An old-fashioned snake-shaped wind instrument, sounding like a modern bassoon

A boisterous rural procession staged to make fun of a spouse who has been unfaithful or has been betrayed

Lethargic, inactive

A song

Madame Tussaud's, a world-famous London wax museum

A small local road


A simpleton or fool

THE STORY, continued

ECC [The Return of the Native Contents] []

© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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