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The Return of the Native
Thomas Hardy

THE STORY, continued


The next morning, Captain Vye uncharacteristically asks his granddaughter why she'd been out so late. He is delighted to hear about the trick she played. He warns that once is enough, however, to go around in breeches. It is very odd for a woman of this time and place to act as freely as she does.

Eustacia wanders off again, only to run upon Diggory. He is hanging around because of Thomasin, it seems; other reddlemen have gone off for the winter. Eustacia has already guessed that Venn is Wildeve's supposed rival, and, like Mrs. Yeobright, she now wants no obstacle placed between Thomasin and Wildeve. When Wildeve appears in the distance Eustacia hides inside Diggory's van. Eventually, she convinces Diggory that she no longer cares for Wildeve. As it happens, Venn was watching the night before when Wildeve, angrily waiting on the barrow, vowed to return at the same time this night. Eustacia asks Diggory to take a message to Wildeve, because she doesn't want to see him again. She is puzzled that Diggory agrees. Why should he carry news that will make his rival marry Thomasin at last? Eustacia just can't understand Diggory's unselfish love.

Hardy's irony here is significant. What we commonly call love may only be self-centeredness. So far in this novel, only Diggory has shown another kind of love. He is sometimes linked with satanic images, but at other times he seems to be more like an angel.

In any event, he brings Eustacia's farewell letter to the barrow that night, startling the already distraught Wildeve. Annoyed, Wildeve reveals that he knows Diggory is his rival. The two men quickly part, each to mull over his own muddled situation.

Wildeve thinks Eustacia is only pretending to break it off with him; he decides to punish her by marrying Thomasin as quickly as possible. Diggory, equally fired to action, dresses himself in a good suit (although the red dye remains on his face) and rushes off to Blooms-End. But he is too late. Wildeve emerges from the Yeobright cottage, gloating. Obviously, Thomasin has accepted him. Diggory goes back to his van and puts on his working clothes. Returning to his life as a reddleman he is symbolically returning to his state of rejection by Thomasin. Wildeve, it seems, has won. But what has he won? His motives for marrying Thomasin seem flimsy and hasty; we may also wonder why Thomasin is marrying him- for love, or out of cowardice? Hardy has made clear that this marriage is doomed. Thinking to free herself, Eustacia has unwittingly set off unhappy changes in the lives of several people.


Hardy backs up to show us the end of the previous chapter from another view- inside the Yeobright cottage. Thomasin explains to her aunt why she has accepted Wildeve's proposal- not because of passion, but because "I am a practical woman now. I don't believe in hearts at all." Mrs. Yeobright leaves and comes back with the news that Diggory has also proposed, but Thomasin hardly gives him a thought.

The next day, bravely dressing herself up as if the occasion were joyous, Thomasin walks off alone toward the church of another parish. In a burst of feeling, she rushes back and hugs her aunt tearfully. Thomasin sets off firmly in a moment, however, crossing the heath "solitary and undefended."

Some time later, Clym appears, and his mother now reveals the whole story. He is surprised, though he's heard rumors already, but he reacts rather casually. Is he a forgiving man, or simply a man of mild feelings? He shows no anger toward Wildeve; he doesn't consider whether the marriage can be happy, under the circumstances. He lightly recalls that he was attracted to Thomasin when they were younger, although he seems to dismiss it as a childhood crush now. Hardy is beginning to shift our attention from Thomasin to Clym; pay attention to these first clues to his character.

Clym decides he must go to the wedding out of kindness. But he returns within minutes, accompanied by Diggory, who reports that Wildeve arrived on time and the pair have been married at last. He has an astonishing detail to add: Eustacia Vye was there to give the bride away. Clym, who doesn't connect her with the mysterious Turkish knight, asks who that is. His aunt mentions the local superstition that the girl is a witch. Though she scoffs, perhaps we feel it's partly true. Eustacia does have a power to bewitch men, a skill she means to work on Clym himself.

What Diggory doesn't reveal is that Eustacia had asked him to warn her when the wedding was about to take place. Veiled, she hung about the church as a stranger, until she was asked to witness the ceremony. Only after the ceremony did she show herself to Wildeve and Thomasin. Hardy then backtracks to the wedding to show us a significant detail that Diggory did not notice. Wildeve and Eustacia, knowing each other so well, exchange intense glances, each feeling triumphant over the other. The question Hardy lets hang, unspoken, is whether either has really won.

This dramatic confrontation at Wildeve's wedding shows Eustacia once again hiding herself, this time with a veil. Before, she hid from Wildeve in Diggory's van. At Blooms-End, she wore a helmet. At her grandfather's cottage, she overheard useful conversations by staying out of sight. Perhaps this is Hardy's way of adding to her mystery. Just as she conceals her face, she often conceals her feelings. She also follows her desires, even when they are unconscious, or "hidden" from her. Perhaps, for Hardy, passionate feelings are the dark side of the soul. Eustacia seems to thrive in darkness. Clym, on the other hand, has already been identified with images of light. Reason, as opposed to passion, is often symbolized by light.


This title contains a very strong word. We use it casually in conversation today, to express simple attraction. In this book, however, Hardy portrays a fascination that is almost like a supernatural spell. Clym and Eustacia are tragically different kinds of human beings, but when passion and idealism blind them, they are swept away.


The chapter begins with a close-up on Clym. Like Eustacia, we still don't know much about this unusual person. Now, Hardy elaborates upon his earlier comment that the young man's face is interesting because it reveals experience. Life has already touched and saddened him, perhaps.

We learn that Clym was a gifted child, famous throughout the area. He was expected to become either a great success or a great failure- nothing ordinary. Now, however, the country folk are puzzled. For a successful Parisian businessman, Clym seems to be taking a very long holiday.

At the local men's weekly hair-cutting outside Fairway's house, the gossip turns to this subject when they see Clym rambling over the heath. Within minutes, he walks up and guesses what they've been talking about. Note how Hardy stresses Clym's connection with the heath and his insight into other human beings- up to a point.

Characteristically, Clym straightforwardly satisfies the villagers' curiosity. In vain, idle Paris, he says, he felt useless and depressingly out of place. Now, he has decided to educate himself at home and then start a rural school near Egdon.

Without waiting for a reaction, he goes back toward the heath, wrapped up in his own thoughts. The villagers think he's making a mistake. Ironically, they're the very class of people he's hoping to help.

Had Eustacia overheard this conversation, her hopes might have sunk. Once, Clym felt as she does that Egdon was contemptible; now, however, the sole ambition of his life is to live and work there.

Now we know what motivates Clym, as Eustacia unfortunately does not. We've seen the contrast between young Yeobright's idealism and the down-to-earth opinions of the men of Egdon. The stage is set for later conflicts. Perhaps the title of the chapter is Hardy's warning that Clym is living inside his own mind, dangerously supposing it to be the entire kingdom. That could prove to be a form of moral blindness.


Hardy explains the difficulty of Clym's position. He is too far ahead of his time. In Paris he was exposed to new ideas, among them the notion that education can elevate simple, uneducated people to noble heights. Clym has foolishly (in the eyes of his friends) abandoned his career for this. Hardy suggests that the young man might be either a madman or a prophet; in any case, Clym does not take the middle course of "happiness and mediocrity." The novelist also explains that Yeobright idealizes the heath, loving each thing that Eustacia hates. He's glad that attempts to tame the heath by farming it have all failed.

Returning to Blooms-End, Clym announces his plans to his mother; thus begins a classic confrontation, not to be resolved. A materialistic woman, Mrs. Yeobright believes that a man should try to succeed in business. Clym has come to believe that true manhood lies in helping mankind out of ignorance and misery.

Suddenly, the timid, superstitious Christian bursts in with a shocking story, almost as if to prove that Egdon is in desperate need of enlightenment. In church that morning, Johnny Nunsuch's mother, Susan, pricked Eustacia Vye with a needle, so hard that it drew blood and caused the girl to faint. Susan believes that Eustacia has bewitched the Nunsuch children. Christian rattles on, enjoying his tale, but the Yeobrights instantly feel compassion for Eustacia. Even Clym is taken aback by this living example of backward rural behavior.

Humphrey and, later, another local, Sam, comes by to confirm the news. In addition, Sam refers to Eustacia as a "beauty," and Clym begins to suspect that Eustacia may have been the Turkish knight. Sam explains that he has stopped by to borrow some rope, to help retrieve Captain Vye's water bucket, which has dropped to the bottom of the well. Out of Mrs. Yeobright's hearing, Sam urges Clym to get a look at Eustacia; the gathering at the well would be a good excuse to drop by her cottage. Obviously, Clym is attracted, although not at all with the force of curiosity that drove Eustacia to join the mummers. For the moment, Hardy doesn't let us know exactly what the young man is thinking, although he is thinking "a good deal."


After a sunny walk on the heath, the Yeobrights literally (and symbolically) take separate paths: Clym to Eustacia, his mother to Thomasin. Mrs. Yeobright, seeing his eagerness, is fearful of what may happen. She decides not to visit The Quiet Woman and worriedly returns home.

Fairway, the natural leader of the local men assembled around Captain Vye's well, has tried without success to bring up the bucket, but it slips off just at the top. Clym offers to try while Fairway rests. Suddenly, Eustacia shocks everyone by crying out, from an upper window of the cottage, that they must tie a rope around Clym because of the danger. Clym recognizes the voice of the mysterious woman he met by moonlight, and innocently thinks, "How thoughtful of her!" We, of course, have the advantage of knowing that her feelings go far deeper than mere thoughtfulness.

Eventually, the men give up for the night. Clym, left alone with Eustacia, offers to help her draw water from the well. Helping him, Eustacia hurts her hands on the rope; when Clym expresses concern, she also shows him the wound Susan Nunsuch left on her arm. Intimacy seems to have instantly flowered between these two unusual people.

Nonetheless, they may not be listening carefully enough to what each other exactly says. Eustacia is clearly appalled by the idea of teaching in Clym's school but Clym doesn't quite pay attention. Clym wants to live near Egdon more than anywhere else in the world, obviously including Paris, but Eustacia may not quite hear him. In this brief encounter, Hardy spells out the problems of communication that will dog this pair until the end.

Compare their reactions as they part. Eustacia thinks a completely new life has begun for her. Clym is so inspired, he immediately begins his studies- the very project which is in conflict with Eustacia's ambitions.

Clym works through the bright sunny day. In the evening, as he confesses to his mother, he meets Eustacia again. Mrs. Yeobright, though she's already reconciling herself to her son's new career, doesn't like this growing relationship- and says so. Clym implies that he has no romantic interest in Eustacia. Why is he hedging? Hardy discusses the love between mother and son- indestructible, even when it isn't openly affectionate. The Yeobrights understand each other, although they disagree. Eustacia will have a tough job trying to win Clym over his mother's wishes.

A few days later on, Christian reports to Mrs. Yeobright about an amateur archaeological dig in a barrow on the heath. Clym apparently took one of the artifacts and gave it to Eustacia, though as Mrs. Yeobright intuitively realizes, Clym had intended to bring it to his mother first. He must have acted on an impulse of the moment. Perhaps Eustacia may be replacing Mrs. Yeobright in Clym's affections, even though he may not yet fully realize it.

The weeks pass; Clym studies at home and frequently meets Eustacia on the heath. As March arrives, the heath begins to come back to life with the spring. So, too, does Clym, as love finally blossoms. He is even considering the possibility of marriage. In an angry conversation, Mrs. Yeobright accuses her son of using his teaching scheme to cover up his real reason for staying in Egdon- his fascination with Eustacia. Clym, however, actually visualizes Eustacia as "a good matron in a boarding-school." Mrs. Yeobright heatedly calls Eustacia a "hussy," but her son's red-faced reaction silences her. They part angrily. As Hardy warns us, this is the "first act" of a drama that is "timeworn."

Does Hardy mean that all marriages are based upon such deep misunderstanding? Some readers think he believes successful marriages are certainly rare. As you read, you may want to look at other marriages in this novel. Decide for yourself how troubles arise in this doomed marriage: from the contradiction between the natures of Clym and Eustacia, or from the difficulty of marriage between any two people.


As the chapter title indicates, Hardy leaves no doubt that things are going to turn out badly. The Yeobrights pass an uneasy day together. When it is dark, Clym leaves, to watch an eclipse of the moon atop Rainbarrow, but as the moon goes into shadow, we see him run down to meet Eustacia at the base of the barrow, where they kiss passionately. Passion, we remember, is in Hardy a thing of darkness. Clym says that he is in love for the first time in his life. Eustacia, who is more experienced in these matters, fears that this love "will evaporate like a spirit." She also recognizes, realistically, that Mrs. Yeobright would like these meetings to stop.

To all of her fears and objections, Clym has one answer: a proposal of marriage. Elusive Eustacia, however, won't agree. She'd rather hear about Paris. Clym doesn't like this topic, but he describes the city to her; bewitched by the vision, she promises to marry him- if he will take her there. He says he will never return. She doesn't believe him, but she finally consents to marry him, even though she's honest enough to realize she won't make much of a housewife.

Betrothed to each other at last, the lovers part on a strangely sad note. Eustacia remembers that she once fell madly in love at the mere glimpse of a stranger. She knows that her love for Clym may be fragile. He, despite the intensity of his love, is troubled by her desire to go to Paris and by the breach growing between him and his mother. He wants to keep alive three things at once: Mrs. Yeobright's trust, his teaching scheme, Eustacia's happiness. But by their very natures, these three things will not co-exist.

The eclipse of the moon, a rare natural phenomenon, probably symbolizes another phenomenon rare in this novel- "an hour of bliss." All too briefly, the lovers have had an ecstatic encounter on the heath. Even in their happiness, each saw the difficulties before them. Neither, however, wants to turn back now, no matter what.


Clym's life now is centered on two activities only- his studies and his secret meetings with Eustacia.

Then Mrs. Yeobright hears from Thomasin that Captain Vye has announced Eustacia's engagement to Clym at The Quiet Woman. The stunned mother realizes that she has lost her son, but, hopeless as it is, she argues with him. The same old points are brought up again: she even mentions the rumor about Eustacia's affair with Wildeve, but Clym has already heard, and believed, his beloved's sanitized version of that episode. Clym announces that he and his bride will not go to Paris, but he will compromise by starting a school in Budmouth, the resort town Eustacia remembers from childhood.

Like many crucial arguments between people who are important to each other, this one darts from point to point; there is more stress than logic evident. Frantic Mrs. Yeobright says that she wishes Clym would leave the house, though she does not really mean it. Deeply hurt, he leaves, barely able to speak. As he walks away, however, the sunny afternoon seems to promise summer, much as his engagement, in his eyes, promises happiness.

He waits for Eustacia in a verdant hollow filled only with ferns, as if he and she will be alone at the beginning of the world. Sadly, this meeting was originally planned for Clym and Eustacia to win Mrs. Yeobright over to their plans. Eustacia, perceptively, guesses what has happened with Mrs. Yeobright yet she accepts this trouble philosophically. The lovers forget the world for a while, it seems, as they stroll through the tall ferns.

As this peaceful interlude comes to an end, the sun is about to set. Perhaps moved by the symbolism of the dying day, Eustacia exclaims that she cannot bear to part with Clym. Mirroring her passion, he decides they will get married immediately. Eustacia agrees, but notice her reaction when he explains that they will have to live in a tiny cottage on the heath until he's ready to take her to Budmouth. "How long...?" is her question. Six months, he promises. Ominously, the marriage that was to be an escape from Egdon for her is beginning as no change at all, or even a setback, to life in a smaller, meaner house. Clym brightly promises that everything will work out. The decision has been made; they will marry in two weeks.

As Eustacia walks away, Clym feels a surprising stab of depression as he gazes at his beloved heath. Its bare flatness seems to suggest to him that he is not superior to anyone else. Despite his great desire to help the uneducated masses, he has just made the kind of mistake anyone might make. Eustacia, too, seems no longer a goddess to him but merely a woman. Reality is moving in.

Hardy ends this chapter by suggesting that the reality of marriage may not be to Eustacia's liking. Is Mrs. Yeobright's anger responsible for the couple's decision to marry right away? It is a factor, but so is the impatience of young love. By now, we're aware of many reasons why Clym and Eustacia should not marry. But it's difficult to imagine how anything could prevent this marriage. Passion has overpowered reason.


On a cold June day, Clym packs his goods and, without a word to his mother, goes off to rent a small cottage six miles away, where he will live alone until the wedding.

Notice how the weather seems to reflect Clym's mood. This is a literary technique called "pathetic fallacy," and you will find Hardy using it a lot. Clym also notes that some trees planted the year he was born are being battered by the wind- perhaps as he is being emotionally battered. Egdon heath itself, however, is hardly affected by the storm.

Left to herself, Mrs. Yeobright is distraught with grief. The next day, Thomasin appears- like a bird- and despite everything, she lights up the area by her presence. She says that her marriage is proceeding well enough, but she does have difficulty asking Wildeve for money. Mrs. Yeobright reveals that her husband left some money to be divided between Thomasin and Clym. She will give Thomasin her share on one condition: the girl must first see whether Wildeve will offer to give her any. Thomasin now tries to get her aunt to forgive Clym, but the older woman, for all her common sense, still feels hurt by his behavior. Thomasin visits her daily for a week to comfort her, but then is kept home by an unexplained illness.

We haven't seen Wildeve since the day of his wedding; now he appears again standing outside The Quiet Woman. A cart driver passes by with news of wedding preparations at Captain Vye's cottage. Wildeve's immediate reaction is a painful longing for Eustacia again. Why? Because another man wants her. Eustacia had a similar reaction toward Wildeve when Thomasin was her rival. Eustacia and Wildeve still resemble each other, it seems. Hardy scoffs at Wildeve and at all people who indulge themselves by wanting only what they cannot have. He, like Eustacia, is the opposite of Clym, who loves what is near, in Egdon.


Purposely, Hardy does not take us to Clym and Eustacia's wedding. Instead, we experience it only through the gloomy imaginings of Mrs. Yeobright. The day is lovely, and church bells peal merrily in the distance, but we are with a weeping woman who predicts her son will someday be sorry.

Later, Wildeve comes to Blooms-End. He and Thomasin's aunt seem to have made a necessary truce; he has made an effort to be courteous to her. But it appears that she still doesn't really trust him. Thomasin, who is at Clym's wedding at Mistover, has asked her husband to pick up "some article or other" from her aunt; she didn't explain to him that the "article" is her half of the money left by the late Mr. Yeobright. Mrs. Yeobright doesn't explain, either, but offends Wildeve by insisting on giving it to her niece in person.

After he leaves, Mrs. Yeobright decides to send the money to Thomasin at the wedding feast so that Wildeve won't find out about it. She'll send Clym's share at the same time, as a token of her good feeling for him. She divides the hundred guineas equally into two small canvas bags.

Unfortunately, she asks Christian, who is loitering about, to deliver the inheritance. On the way to Mistover, hearing voices over a rise, timid Christian empties the coins into his boots for safekeeping. The voices turn out by chance to be old friends, however, headed for a raffle at The Quiet Woman. Even though the prize is "a gown-piece for his wife or sweetheart," Christian, the man no woman could love, tags along, pathetically hoping to see the fun.

In fact, to the amusement of everyone at the inn, he does win the raffle. As the crowd starts carousing, Christian muses over his good fortune, superstitiously believing it proves that he was born lucky.

Christian's foolish attitude toward the lucky dice could be an example of some common attitudes toward Fate. Hardy may be saying that, in times of good fortune, we are tempted to think we're in control of events. But the truth is probably otherwise, as Christian's actions soon show.

Christian stupidly drops enough hints for Wildeve to guess the nature of his errand to Mistover. Thomasin's husband, quickly setting a trap, offers to accompany Christian, and he lets him borrow a pair of those marvelous dice. As the two set out carrying a lantern, we learn that Diggory has been silently watching from the inn's dark chimney-corner.

Out in the warm misty night, Wildeve suggests a brief rest and a dice game. Christian, obsessed with the dice, is eager to try his newfound luck again. First Christian loses his own money. He decides to win it back by betting with Thomasin's money, but Wildeve wins the whole fifty guineas. Christian dips into Clym's share as well, but beyond control, that, too, is eventually lost.

Christian is struck with remorse, but Wildeve views the matter coolly. Even when he learns that half his winnings had actually belonged to Clym, he insists that he has gained fair possession of them. In his eyes, he hasn't committed a crime; he has merely proved his cleverness. Hardy, however, seems to feel Wildeve's behavior is not wholly admirable.

As the chapter ends, the defeated Christian totters away. Wildeve is about to leave, too, when Diggory suddenly appears in the light of the lantern. What does he know? What can he do? Hardy leaves the answers to the following chapter.


The "current" of the title probably refers to the trend of events, which, for the previous few pages, has turned in Wildeve's favor. In Hardy's world, however fate is not constant.

With no ceremony, Diggory sets down a coin; Wildeve cannot resist continuing to play. He obviously felt superior to Christian's naive eagerness, but now he is just as greedy and obsessed himself.

The game is tense, see-sawing back and forth. The two men make a contrast in temperament: "nervous and excitable" Wildeve, Diggory seeming like "a red-sandstone statue." Hardy clearly prefers Diggory; unlike many novelists, he often lets you know just how he feels about his characters.

Almost uncannily, Diggory begins to win. The furious Wildeve throws the dice away in frustration but insists that the game continue, even though only one die is recovered. Nothing can stop Wildeve now; he is possessed, perhaps just as he once let love possess him. When a moth extinguishes the lantern, Wildeve frantically gathers enough glowworms to produce light for the game. When he eventually loses all of the money, he sits stupefied, as Diggory disappears into the darkness.

Within moments, the newlyweds pass by in a carriage. Diggory stops them to ask about Thomasin. Learning that she is following soon, he waits until she rides up and, without explanation, hands her the money he's just won from her husband.

Unfortunately, this fine attempt to rectify an evil is marred by one mistake. Diggory thinks that the whole sum of 100 guineas belongs to Thomasin. This innocent error may cause more trouble than if the whole sum had been lost.

Mrs. Yeobright had thought she could do good by sending half the guineas to her son, but Christian's superstitiousness and Wildeve's deceit got in the way. Diggory tries to do good by winning back Thomasin's money, but his ignorance of the whole story gets in his way. It seems that chance ironically often causes decent actions to have evil results.


As we shall see, as simple a thing as a closed door will cause disaster for the major characters. People will misunderstand each other's motives, a marriage will founder, and one person will die. Again, it's the tiny details of chance that throw human lives into chaos. But perhaps that closed door can also be understood as a symbol for the past, which cannot be retrieved. Once events are set in motion, we can never stop fate.


It is July, and the heath glows in its one gorgeous season of the year. Similarly, Clym and Eustacia's marriage is glowing. They love everything because they are in love with each other. Such paradise cannot last, however, in Hardy's world. Clym finally returns to his studies, and Eustacia anxiously guesses that her hopes of moving soon to Paris are doomed.

Now, the misunderstandings over the guineas begin to multiply. Not having received a thank-you from Clym, Mrs. Yeobright begins to guess that Thomasin somehow received all one hundred guineas. Hearing that Eustacia is visiting Captain Vye, Clym's mother decides to ask her whether or not his share of the money ever arrived. Things are further complicated when Christian confesses that he lost all the money to Wildeve.

Notice how several small lies have built up into this confusion. Mrs. Yeobright didn't tell Wildeve about the money; he didn't tell Thomasin about the gambling incident; Thomasin promised Diggory she wouldn't tell her husband that she now has the money- these deceptions add up and cause great harm. And when Mrs. Yeobright rushes off to see Eustacia, she interprets Eustacia's evasive answers as evidence that Wildeve returned Clym's share to Eustacia, his former lover. Mrs. Yeobright suspects that Eustacia is cheating on Clym. Both women speak sharply, proudly, opening up old wounds. As they lash out at each other, we discover that each has been deeply hurt by the other and wants to get even. In her anger, Eustacia says that she wishes she hadn't married Clym, and predicts that the breach between Clym and his mother will never be healed. Mrs. Yeobright defends herself, warning Eustacia that if she ever shows this kind of temper to Clym, she'll regret it.

Ironically, this encounter has taken place beside the pond where Wildeve and Eustacia used to meet. As her mother-in-law rushes off, Eustacia turns her gaze toward the pool. Like us, she is surely reminded of Wildeve by this symbol. Perhaps, she is thinking of what might have been, if she had not driven him into Thomasin's arms.

During this upsetting conversation, which woman was in the wrong? If there is guilt, it is probably about equal. Passion is still a dangerous force, even when it is anger, not romantic love. This passion has made Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright deaf to each other, at least for the moment, breeding more misunderstandings.


Clym notices Eustacia's emotional state when she rushes home, and so she explains that his mother has indirectly accused her of taking money from Wildeve. Desperately, she suggests moving to Paris as an answer to this galling situation. But he is astonished that she thinks he would change his mind about Paris; Eustacia glumly recognizes, all too well, that she has been living in a dream. He will not discuss the issue, and they turn away from each other- perhaps a fatal first step.

The next day, the mystery of the money is cleared up. Thomasin visits to give Clym his half. It is too late, however, as Clym sadly realizes, to heal the quarrel between the two women who mean most to him.

More troubles lie in store for Clym. His concentrated studies bring on an acute inflammation of the eyes, making it impossible for him to read. As weeks pass, he does not improve, and Eustacia nervously fears that she will be chained to a lonely, boring existence, perhaps even with a blind husband.

Clym, on the other hand, remains cheerful. Walking out into the bright sun one day, he meets Humphrey, who is cutting furze. Though it is low-class work, Clym realizes that he could do it even in his present condition. As you'd expect, this decision horrifies Eustacia; it's just one more come-down in their status.

Clym ignores her objections, however. Daily, he works with Humphrey, finding peace and calm out in the fields. He almost merges with the heath; insects and small animals take his presence for granted.

Eustacia discovers Clym at work one morning happily singing a French love-song. Her pity for him turns in a flash to anger, the kind of anger that arises from despair. In the unsatisfactory conversation that follows, Clym realizes that her love for him has almost died; he says, however, he still loves her. She feels that she is the one who deserves pity, chained as she is to a life she despises. Clym tries gently to explain to her his philosophy about living humbly.

For all his fine ideas, however, Clym is missing the point. Independent, yearning Eustacia needs to see the greater life outside Egdon for herself. Dimly sighted Clym seems to be blind to this need. Consider what kind of schoolmaster Clym will make, if he expects his students to accept what he says without question. His conviction that he is right may be a kind of self-centeredness.

Rather than risk what her tongue might blurt out in response, Eustacia leaves him to his work. There is still affection between them; each is still trying to avoid directly attacking the other. As we're seeing, however, the gulf of misunderstanding between them is wide, and may be widening.


It is late August. The brief shining summer of Egdon Heath is almost over, just as the brief shining marital happiness of Eustacia and Clym has dimmed. Clym optimistically expects the situation to improve, even though he realizes that, to his sobbing wife, he has changed from a hero into a common laborer.

Eustacia decides to fight off her deepening depression by going to East Egdon, where a village picnic will offer dancing. Clym's somewhat jealous, but he admits he would be a gloomy sight at such a festival and tells her to go on alone. Eustacia's spirit rebounds; she decides to hide her suffering from the world and act merry for an evening. Though you may not entirely admire Eustacia at this point, she does at least regain her former courage. When she dresses in a way that brightens her unusual beauty, even Hardy (who is often hard on her) comments that she might have good reason for resenting a life that doomed such charms to misery.

All is liveliness and young love at the East Egdon festivities. Unfortunately, Eustacia's female friend who had suggested the outing does not show up. Even independent-minded Eustacia cannot join in the dancing as a strange woman alone. But the sensuous, pagan spirit of the moonlit night enters Eustacia's blood, and she longs to join in the dancing. Suddenly, in this moment of frustrated emotions, Wildeve appears at her side.

It is their first encounter since his wedding day, and, by chance, it comes at a moment when Eustacia is very susceptible to Wildeve's appeal. Veiled, as if admitting that she's doing something improper, Eustacia accepts her former lover's invitation to dance. Soon, her pulse races. The dancing shows us her passionate nature, as she whirls and glides away from the boredom of her married life. Passion, once again, leads Eustacia astray.

The pair are united in pleasure, so obviously that the bystanders notice. As for Wildeve, this evening makes him once again want to have Eustacia as his own, all year long. When they sit down together on the grass to rest, Wildeve tenderly pries out the truth about Eustacia's unhappiness. He does seem more sympathetic in this scene- gentler, and more genuinely in love. Eustacia boldly accepts his offer to accompany her homeward, even though it would give the locals something to gossip about. The moonlight is bright, but the heath remains dark, and Eustacia needs Wildeve's touch to steady her from time to time. It's a delicate situation, and the danger must make it even more thrilling to them both.

Suddenly Clym appears, with Diggory, who is still Wildeve's determined adversary. In the dim light, Clym does not see Wildeve slip quietly away, from Eustacia but the reddleman does. After Clym and Eustacia head for home, he rushes to The Quiet Woman to catch Wildeve.

Thomasin tells Diggory that her husband has gone to East Egdon to buy a horse. Diggory, being surprisingly subtle, reports that he glimpsed her husband leading something home- "a beauty with a white face and a mane as black as night." Innocent Thomasin doesn't catch his reference, but we know he's talking about Eustacia. Wildeve, too, immediately understands the meaning of this comment when Thomasin reports it to him later. He realizes that Diggory is warning him, that he will be watching the reawakening of Wildeve's affair with Eustacia.

Diggory has also picked up a note of sadness beneath Thomasin's light tone when she jokes about husbands liking to play the truant. We can guess that the reddleman, who cares deeply about Thomasin's happiness, will be doing his best to prevent Wildeve from betraying her with Eustacia.


Diggory's suspicions about Wildeve were aroused, it turns out, while he was just passing through the neighborhood. But now he is irresistibly drawn back into Thomasin's affairs. As he follows Wildeve, he realizes that so far Wildeve and Eustacia have not really taken up their old relationship again- yet. But Wildeve has taken up the suspicious habit of walking out at night to the Yeobright's cottage.

One night, as a warning, Diggory rigs up a trap that causes his enemy to stumble. Wildeve recognizes that the red-colored string in the trap is another warning from the persistent reddleman, but he continues his romantic walks, as if he had no power to stop. One night, he catches a moth and daringly slips it through the partly opened window of the Yeobright's cottage. The moth flies into a candle, and Eustacia recognizes the signal Wildeve used in the days of their love. Clym comes in and notices her agitation. She says she needs to go out for some air, but there is suddenly a loud knocking at the front door. When she answers it, no one is there, however. We learn that Diggory pounded on the door, so that Wildeve would have to sneak away. As he leaves the cottage, a gun is fired in his direction and he runs for cover, realizing that Venn may even want to hurt him seriously. Diggory's actions may seem odd, almost obsessive. He may also seem like a magical sprite here. Yet his tricks do not have quite the effect he intends. In fact, Wildeve realizes that it's too dangerous to visit Eustacia at night, and he decides to see her by day. Diggory's interference has hastened the affair, quite contrary to his desires.

Meanwhile, he continues his well-intended meddling by going to Mrs. Yeobright. He tells her that, in his view, both Clym and Thomasin would be happier if she would swallow her pride and visit them. Mrs. Yeobright pretends to remain firm, but Diggory's hints about Wildeve and Eustacia make her decide to visit her son; she has already decided to forgive him, anyway.

At the same moment, Clym is telling Eustacia that he wants to patch things up with his mother. He asks Eustacia to welcome his mother, if he is successful. Holding back her true feelings, she agrees not to interfere, but she refuses to go and make advances herself to Mrs. Yeobright.

Repeatedly, Hardy sounds his theme that one action can be like a stone thrown into a pond and causing ever-widening circles to form. Clym's return has dramatically changed more lives than he knows. It is another form of blindness, perhaps, that keeps him, like all people, from realizing that his mistakes may have far-reaching consequences.


On an oppressively hot day, the last day of August, Mrs. Yeobright walks across the heath to make up with Clym and Eustacia. The air, says Hardy, is like the inside of a kiln, a furnace for firing pottery. Mrs. Yeobright feels the strain and must rest frequently. Because she has never visited her son's cottage, she further tires herself by taking wrong pathways, all of them uphill.

Coming upon a laborer, she asks the way. The man simply tells her to follow an anonymous furze- cutter, walking in the distance. Mrs. Yeobright slowly realizes that the unknown furze-cutter is Clym. The revelation disturbs her so much that she instantly begins scheming to rescue him and Eustacia. Ironically, her wishes are for once the same as those of her dissatisfied daughter-in-law.

From a distance, she sees Clym enter his cottage. Tired and emotionally upset, she sits down to rest a moment on a hill. The broken, scarred trees around her produce a mysterious foreboding moan. As she sits there, Mrs. Yeobright spies a man circling Clym's cottage below, then going in. She's annoyed, at first but then she decides that this stranger's arrival might be a good thing after all; it could make her entrance easier, since everyone would be forced to be casual and polite.

The chapter ends with a masterful picture of a hot, lazy summer afternoon- a sleeping housecat, metallically glaring leaves, wasps rolling on the ground drunk with apple juice. This quiet moment will prove to be the calm before the storm. Mrs. Yeobright is last seen at Clym's garden gate, poised to begin her attempt at making peace.

THE STORY, continued


ECC [The Return of the Native Contents] []

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