The Return of the Native
THE STORY, continued
CHAPTER 6: A CONJUNCTURE, AND ITS RESULT UPON THE PEDESTRIAN
Hardy now backs up to explain why another person has appeared at Clym and Eustacia's cottage this
afternoon. Wildeve, again bewitched by Eustacia's spell, cannot resist seeing her. So as not to
compromise her, he has decided to visit her openly, even when Clym might be at home.
When Wildeve enters, Eustacia gives him a cool reception. She shows him Clym, who has fallen
asleep on a rug on the floor. Eustacia certainly sees the contrast between her dirty, weary husband and the
buoyant, well-dressed Wildeve, but she is not ready to throw over Clym. She admits to Wildeve that the
marriage is not working, but blames Clym's eye trouble. Wildeve makes it clear that he still loves her; she
admits that she's not exactly unhappy to hear that, considering the state of her marriage. Moved by
feelings they cannot express, they gaze enviously at the sleeping Clym, who seems to possess a sense of
peace which neither of them can achieve.
They are startled by a knock on the door. Mrs. Yeobright is there, about to walk in on a scene which
would confirm all her suspicions of Eustacia. Fate, seems once again to have dealt Eustacia an unfair
blow. Her reactions whirl- she wants to hide Wildeve; she longs to be seen with him, no matter what her
mother-in-law might think; she's unwilling to open the door to a woman who dislikes her so much.
When the knocking is repeated, Clym mumbles the word, "Mother," in his sleep.
Eustacia's certain that he will answer the knock, and now it's more important that Wildeve must not be
seen. Eustacia slips with her former lover out the back door, telling him quite firmly never to visit again.
She waits by herself in the garden- partly because she might be in the way, partly because she is not eager
to face Mrs. Yeobright. Throughout this scene, her emotions have been mixed, confused, contradictory.
Soon, Eustacia notices that the cottage is silent. Going in, she discovers that Clym never woke up.
She rushes to open the door, but it is too late; there's no one there, nothing but the great hot silent heath.
Out of sight, Mrs. Yeobright is struggling homeward. She's half-mad with distress, because she
glimpsed Eustacia's face through a window and, knowing that Clym was inside, she assumes that he
willingly allowed his wife to keep the door barred against his mother.
By chance, little Johnny Nunsuch idly appears on the path beside Mrs. Yeobright. As she rambles on
about Eustacia's coldheartedness and Clym's rejection, the boy tells her she is talking nonsense. As he
describes how she looks to him- pale, sweating, and almost in convulsions- we suspect that there's more
than a little weariness affecting her.
She finally sits down, scarcely able to breathe, and pulls out a small teacup, ironically one of a set
which she was going to give as a peace offering to Clym and Eustacia. Johnny brings her some lukewarm
pond water, but it is too nauseating to drink. Bored, the boy asks to leave, but Mrs. Yeobright sends him
off with a dreadful message, "...you have seen a broken-hearted woman cast off by her son."
Alone, exposed to the draining sun, this once-proud, independent woman creeps along feebly.
Hardy, in this chapter, has been almost as hard on the reader as Fate has been on the characters.
Helpless, we watch people make decisions which bring on disaster. It's frustrating to know what Mrs.
Yeobright cannot- that her son loves her, that Eustacia did not mean for her to be shut out.
Why did Wildeve have to visit the cottage at that particular moment? Why didn't Clym wake up fully?
Why did Mrs. Yeobright happen to see Eustacia in the window? These tiny tricks of fate seem to lead to
Is Eustacia to blame for slipping away? Is Mrs. Yeobright to blame, because she was so stubborn in
the beginning? As we have seen before, Hardy does not give simple answers to these questions. He wants
his novel to be as puzzling as life itself is.
NOTE: FRUSTRATING FATE
Often, Hardy's readers are shown that unfortunate happenings
could be avoided "if only" some small thing had happened otherwise. If this makes you feel
frustrated, it is just what the novelist wants you to feel. He does not believe we can control our lives.
CHAPTER 7: THE TRAGIC MEETING OF TWO OLD FRIENDS
Back at the cottage, Clym wakes up from a terrible dream. In it, Eustacia and he went to visit his
mother, but could not get in, even though she was heard screaming for help. This dream- so close to the
truth, if he only knew it!- makes him wonder why his mother still hasn't broken her silence. He decides to
break down and go visit her this evening. When she hears this, Eustacia offers to go to Blooms-End
herself. She hopes, of course, to apologize to Mrs. Yeobright, and clear up the whole matter before Clym
can even hear about it. But Clym, puzzled, insists on going himself. Both, in different ways, want to take
action, without knowing that it is already too late.
At sunset, Clym walks off on the darkened heath for several miles. Scenting his mother's perfume
(how well he knows her!) he stops, and a faint moan reaches his ears. He discovers with shock his mother,
lying in a heap at his feet. He carries her limp body toward Blooms-End, but decides he'd better stop and
set her down in a small shed about a mile from her cottage. Making her as comfortable as possible on a
bed of dried fern, he runs off to get help.
Soon, the country folk arrive. They discover that she has been bitten by an adder, or snake. Sam
suggests an old folk remedy- frying other adders to produce fat for an ointment. Two freshly killed snakes,
and one live one, are found. Mrs. Yeobright and the living snake stare at each other; it looks angry and
evil, causing her to tremble. The country folk, too, see evil in the snake. Yet, while the remedy is being
prepared, they chatter on, their familiar characters as unchanging, in their way, as Egdon Heath. Susan
Nunsuch, Johnny's mother, brings a frying-pan, and the snakes are cooked. Clym, the man of progressive
ideas, finds himself gently anointing his mother's wound with this crude ointment, if only because the
doctor has not yet arrived.
Here is the reconciliation that both mother and son have desired for so long. But it's scarcely
satisfying; she is barely conscious and may be dying; he doesn't know if he has been forgiven; she may not
even be aware of his tender nursing. A cruel price has been paid for this reunion.
NOTE: MRS. YEOBRIGHT'S DEATH AS A PUBLIC EVENT
Notice that Hardy purposely
turns this scene into a public event. Just as at the bonfire and at the Christmas party, the villagers have
gathered to comment and observe, and thus we are reminded of the social context of the Yeobright's
private tragedy. Ironically, the villagers may feel more comfortable with Mrs. Yeobright, who thinks
herself superior, than with her son, who wants so badly to educate them. If she dies, it will be an event of
major importance to the Egdon area. One generation will have passed on, leaving room for the new. If she
dies, some of the values of the past may also die.
CHAPTER 8: EUSTACIA HEARS OF GOOD FORTUNE AND BEHOLDS EVIL
Alone at home, Eustacia is depressed, fearing there will be some ugly consequences of her not
opening the door. Yet she doesn't blame herself, but Providence.
Deciding to walk out to meet Clym on his way homeward, she instead encounters Captain Vye. He
reports that Wildeve has unexpectedly inherited a huge fortune from an uncle in Canada. Eustacia's
grandfather calls her a fool for not hanging on to him, she wonders why Wildeve didn't tell her this news
when he came to visit.
As she reflects, Wildeve himself re-appears. Casually, they walk together to meet Clym. When she
asks him about the inheritance, he gallantly says he hadn't told her because her own fortunes were not so
happy. She changes the subject and Wildeve explains his plans to invest most of the money and use the
rest for a year's travel to the world's most exciting places- beginning, of course, with Paris. Without
knowing of Eustacia's dreams of Paris, he too yearns toward it. These two people resemble each other,
even in their longings. They begin to talk over the past; Wildeve hints that he would never have married
Thomasin if Eustacia hadn't rejected him.
Suddenly, they see a light ahead, cast by the shed where Mrs. Yeobright lies. Hidden in the dark, they
overhear the doctor tell Clym that his mother's in danger, not so much from the bite as from exhaustion.
She is sinking fast. We hear Mrs. Yeobright's last gasp. Then little Johnny Nunsuch shrieks out her
words to him: "she said I was to say that I had seed her, and she was a broken-hearted woman and
cast off by her son." Clym sobs miserably. Eustacia, concealed in darkness (as we've seen her so
often), is torn between comforting him and avoiding exposure.
Deciding to slip away, Eustacia faces putting the blame on herself at last. She tells Wildeve that she
cannot speak to him any more. As he vanishes, she can see only one sight- the procession carrying the
body of her mother-in-law. Figuratively, too, she sees only this because it is now the most important fact
in her life. Book Four, titled "The Closed Door," concludes with the most terrible consequence
of Eustacia's neglecting to open that door: Mrs. Yeobright's death.
BOOK FIVE: THE DISCOVERY
By now, you can guess the meaning of Hardy's title. It seems likely that Eustacia's act will be
discovered. Notice that Hardy often uses titles that give away what will happen. Perhaps he is less
interested in surprising us with developments of plot than with reminding us of his themes. He wants us to
think about what happens to Eustacia and whether or not she deserves her fate. He wants us to study,
along with him, how tragedy can occur when ordinary people try to live fulfilling lives.
CHAPTER 1: "WHEREFORE IS LIGHT GIVEN TO HIM THAT IS IN MISERY?"
Weeks later, in the moonlight outside their cottage, we see Eustacia, who has been faithfully nursing
the grief-torn Clym. When Humphrey stops by, she tells him that her husband's delirium has subsided,
but he is still obsessed by thoughts of his mother. Eustacia goes back inside, where Clym twists and turns,
accusing himself of causing Mrs. Yeobright's death. He says hopelessly, "If she had only come to
see me!" Obviously, then, Eustacia still hasn't told him about the aborted visit. As Clym wails in
despair and guilt, his wife is again and again reminded of her own guilt.
Thomasin arrives, hoping to comfort Clym, but he rises to new heights of grief. Eustacia holds her
tongue, but Clym rages on, condemning himself, wildly picturing his mother dying, Eustacia feels even
more guilty. When he calls on God to punish him, she knows that it is she who deserves punishment.
Thomasin gently urges her cousin to calm down. We learn that she is about to have a child;
afterwards, she and Wildeve mean to begin their travels.
NOTE: LIFE GOES ON
As we have seen throughout the novel, Hardy believes in the continuity
of life itself at Egdon, no matter what happens to individuals. Mrs. Yeobright has died, but, as if to
restore the natural balance, a new soul is about to enter the world. Wildeve's plans for a new lifestyle are
being carried out, even though Eustacia's life has sunk into a dull round of duty.
For Clym, life has stopped. Reverting to his own concerns, he again repeats his mother's accusing last
message; tortured, Eustacia begs him to stop. Thomasin, level-headed, reminds Clym that his mother
often spoke in haste, and she'd probably forgiven him, nonetheless.
Wildeve drives up outside, and Eustacia goes out to tell him that Thomasin is coming in a few
minutes. Wretchedly, she confesses that she has not yet told Clym the story of the closed door. She wants
to tell him, but she's afraid that, in his present state, Clym might actually kill her. His overmastering
grief, we see, is another example of the sort of passion that can destroy reason. Wildeve, typically the
diplomat, suggests that Eustacia not confess until Clym is better; even then, she shouldn't reveal that
Wildeve himself was on the scene that day. Eustacia, ever the pragmatic one, agrees.
When Thomasin and Wildeve drive off together, their shared future looks bright, with the promise of
a child and exciting travel. Eustacia watches them sadly; her own future looks dark indeed.
CHAPTER 2: A LURID LIGHT BREAKS IN UPON DARKENED UNDERSTANDING
Clym improves over the following month, if only because his grief wears out. Now, however he is
While Clym is working in the garden one evening, Eustacia brings the happy news that Thomasin has
given birth to a baby girl. As you may suspect, however, simple-minded Christian also brings trouble, as
he has so often before. He reports that he saw Mrs. Yeobright the day she died, setting out on the six-mile
walk to Clym's place. Christian doesn't know why she was coming, but he suggests that Diggory, who has
been away lately, might. This news, which might have comforted Clym, has come too late. If Christian
weren't so addle-brained, and if Venn had not vanished, Clym might not have had to suffer his long
ordeal of terrible remorse.
In any event, Clym sets off one day to Blooms-End because the property is now his legal
responsibility. As he wanders through his childhood home, he looks fondly on the old family furnishings,
which he knows Eustacia would want to get rid of. Great differences still exist between husband and wife.
Coincidentally, Venn appears at the cottage; he's shocked when he learns that Mrs. Yeobright is dead.
The two men sit down in the large room where, only the previous Christmas, life had seemed so carefree.
Change is one of Hardy's themes: change which brings the death of hopes, the death of people.
Diggory, we learn, spoke with Mrs. Yeobright the night before she died. He tells Clym that she didn't
blame him at all. This news does not satisfy Clym. He wants to know what could have changed her mind,
to make her give her bitter message to Johnny Nunsuch.
When Diggory leaves, the puzzle continues to eat away at Clym. After a sleepless night at Blooms-
End, he decides to question Johnny again. The next morning he takes the path to the Nunsuch cottage,
feeling a chill in the air- a possible bad omen.
When Susan answers Clym's knock, he recalls how she pricked Eustacia with a needle. In fact,
Johnny is ill again, and his mother believes Eustacia is to blame. In a sense, she has her revenge on
Eustacia now. Her son Johnny reveals to the astonished Clym that he saw the whole episode: Mrs.
Yeobright resting at the Devil's Bellows, a gentleman entering Clym's cottage, Mrs. Yeobright knocking
at the door, Eustacia watching her from a window.
Wildly, Clym ricochets from bewilderment to anger, finally shouting, "May all murderesses get
the torment they deserve!" He doesn't have to use Eustacia's name; we know whom he means. Clym
seems possessed by a mood in which anything is possible.
NOTE: MANKIND'S INSIGNIFICANCE
Distraught and dangerous as Clym becomes, the face
of the heath in contrast is "imperturbable." Just as the action heats up to fever pitch, the
novelist reminds us that a single man's tragedy means nothing to this ancient wasteland. Probably, he is
suggesting that all of mankind's troubles and joys are insignificant, when compared with the long
existence of the earth. What we most fear or love is forgotten in time. Mankind is probably not the center
of the universe. The universe probably pays no attention to us.
CHAPTER 3: EUSTACIA DRESSES HERSELF ON A BLACK MORNING
Clym rushes home in a fury. When he enters Eustacia's room, she has just woken up and is seated at
her mirror. In the glass, she sees his face, which is "ashy, haggard, and terrible." With a
frightening kind of intimacy, the pallor of his face transfers immediately to his wife's. Instantly, each
understands the other.
Eustacia, however, plays for time. She pretends not to understand his hints about Wildeve's visit;
exasperated, Clym says that he's referring to the day Eustacia "shut the door against my mother and
killed her." Coolly she asks if he means to kill her, but he answers no, for that would make a martyr
of her; besides, death might cause her to meet Mrs. Yeobright in the after-life, and Clym wants them kept
apart eternally. Matching his desperation with her own, Eustacia says she almost wishes he would kill
her, since their marriage is such a disaster.
Clym will not be distracted, however; he wants to know what happened when his mother tried to visit.
In her defiance, Eustacia refuses to explain. Clym breaks into her writing desk and finds, among her
private letters, a single empty envelope addressed to Eustacia in Wildeve's handwriting.
In the wild scene that follows, Clym virtually accuses his wife of adultery; in revenge, she allows him
to be tortured by his suspicions. Bitter remarks and recriminations flash back and forth.
Then, suddenly, Eustacia begins to cry and, trembling, offers her hand to her husband. We must
remember how precious this hand is to Charley, how precious it has been to Clym. Reluctantly, he takes
it, but he says he's been bewitched by her- in the past. Eustacia falls to her knees, begging for pity. Clym
refuses until she names the man who was in the house with her. She will not. They remain at an impasse.
They even disagree over which of them should move out. Eustacia finally decides to leave. In one of
Hardy's most dramatically poignant moments, Clym, seeing that the woman who once fascinated him is
too upset to tie her own bonnet, gently ties it for her. But his parting words are unyielding; Eustacia leaves
without answering him.
Soon afterward, word comes to Clym that the Wildeves have named their baby girl "Eustacia
Clementine." This is a cruel joke, in his eyes. The girl's two names will honor a marriage that has
turned cold and hollow.
CHAPTER 4: THE MINISTRATIONS OF A HALF-FORGOTTEN ONE
After showing Clym's uncontrollable anger- the passionate result of his pain and loss- Hardy
concentrates now on Eustacia's misery. Again and again, he reminds us of the contrast between her
present state and her earlier hopes. She wanders through "the dying ferns" which were so
luxuriant when she and Clym decided to marry. Reaching her grandfather's cottage, which had always
been her home, she finds it locked and empty. Charley is there, however, and he is stunned to see her
desperate state. Previously, she only let him touch her as part of a deal; now, she leans on him for
physical support. He opens up the house, lights a fire, and helps her eat and drink a little. Even his
kindness reminds her of better times.
After lying on a couch lifelessly for a while, Eustacia goes upstairs to her old room. It hasn't changed,
a fact which harshly reminds her of her own changed situation. Hardy stresses that it is autumn, the
season of dying things. His heroine spies a pair of pistols in her grandfather's room. She quickly goes
downstairs and considers committing suicide.
When she finally resolves to kill herself, however, and returns upstairs for the weapons, they are gone.
Charley is standing outside; Eustacia realizes that the shy, uneducated boy has guessed her intentions. She
asks him for the pistols, which he has locked up in the stable, but he refuses, because he loves Eustacia
too much to let her kill herself. At this moment, when Eustacia has been feeling completely alone in the
world, Charley's love revives her. He promises not to tell what has happened; she promises that the
moment has passed.
That night, her grandfather kindly asks no questions when he sees her emotional state. Eustacia tells
him only that she will stay again with him.
NOTE: SIMPLE PEOPLE'S HUMANITY
Note that the simple people whom Eustacia spurned,
such as Charley and her grandfather, show sincere human feeling to her now, while the sophisticated
Wildeve, the idealistic Clym, are not there when Eustacia hits rock bottom. Many readers feel that Hardy
is saying here that human decency and generosity are more likely to be found among simple folk than in
a cosmopolitan setting. Eustacia, as we have seen, does not appreciate such virtues as much as she
might; this has hastened her downfall. Hardy may want us to see that her inability to enjoy and
understand the humble people of Egdon is a great failing.
At this point, Eustacia is probably thinking only of herself and of her ruined hopes. Love has died,
her marriage has ended, and she may never see Paris. She has returned to the center of the heath that she
CHAPTER 5: AN OLD MOVE INADVERTENTLY REPEATED
For days, Eustacia remains lifeless. Charley, happy to be her guardian, does every little thing he can
to give her pleasure.
Eventually, she returns to her old habit of looking through her grandfather's telescope. In the past, she
might have been searching eagerly for her lover, Wildeve. Now, by contrast, she sees her own furniture
being moved by Clym to his mother's house. Rather than see promise, she watches a defeat. On another
day, she sees Thomasin out walking, the baby in her arms, as a nursemaid follows. Eustacia's lonely,
abandoned life contrasts with her old rival's maternal happiness.
Meanwhile, Charley has been preparing for November 5, expecting that Eustacia will want a good
bonfire again as she did in the past. He does not know, of course, that for those two years, the bonfire was
a signal to Wildeve. On the evening of Guy Fawkes Day, exactly one year after the beginning of this
novel, Charley kindles the fire, even though Eustacia is inside the cottage, with the shutters closed.
Charley's good, if mistaken, intentions, set the plot going again, as if he is an unknowing agent of
fate. On first seeing the fire blaze up, Eustacia asks Charley to put it out. She does not want to see
Wildeve- or does she? She doesn't insist very hard, as Charley lets the fire blaze on. She seems numbed,
willing to take whatever happens.
Skillfully the novelist unnerves Eustacia, and perhaps us too, with that sound we know so well- the
splash of a stone in the pond. Eustacia, shocked, cannot move. Wildeve, still unseen, throws a second
stone. She moves toward him.
In the firelight, separated by the earth-bank, they speak directly, urgently, with the familiarity of
former lovers. Eustacia urges him to stay back; as though she's concealing herself; Wildeve, nevertheless,
can see how unhappy she is. Eustacia, once so aggressive, almost mannish, and resilient, now breaks
down in sobs. Wildeve offers to do anything he can to save her. He seems more under her power than he's
ever been. She asks help to get secretly to Budmouth, from where she can travel at last to Paris. She
seems unable to speak when he asks if he can go with her.
Perhaps she still feels bound by decency to her marriage; perhaps, after all, she still loves Clym.
Perhaps she is simply not sure about Wildeve. Hardy doesn't tell us, possibly because Eustacia herself
doesn't know. She knows she can use Wildeve "as a friend" or, more irrevocably, she can
become his lover. She puts off this decision until later; if she does decide to let him come along, she tells
him, he'll see a signal some night at eight o'clock. Then they can leave together at midnight that same
The chapter ends in confusion- Eustacia rushing away in a frenzy, Wildeve staring from the darkness
as she disappears. Charley's bonfire, lit to divert her from her depression, has led her toward taking a step
she had not considered before. Charley may have saved Eustacia from killing herself, but now,
unwittingly, he's brought her into another kind of danger. Can Eustacia escape her imprisonment on
Egdon Heath? Can we ever escape our own particular fates? That is the question Hardy poses now.
CHAPTER 6: THOMASIN ARGUES WITH HER COUSIN, AND HE WRITES A LETTER
Meanwhile, Clym is already hoping that Eustacia will come back to him. As he cleans up his mother's
house, the slightest sound causes him to think his wife has reappeared. Notice that, even though his anger
has cooled, he still expects her to make the first move; Clym still can't admit he was wrong.
His suspicions about Wildeve have not weakened, but on November 5, the night of Charley's bonfire,
in frustration Clym decides to visit The Quiet Woman, hoping that Wildeve will say something that
might clear Eustacia's honor. By chance, Wildeve has already gone off (to Eustacia's cottage, we know)
when Clym arrives. Clym talks to Thomasin about his marital difficulties, though he tactfully does not
mention that Wildeve may be involved. Thomasin is horrified nevertheless. Always the peacemaker, she
urges Clym to send for Eustacia and patch things up. Remember, it was also Thomasin who wanted peace
between Clym and his mother. Gentle Thomasin, who has suffered much, does not want others to suffer.
Clym agrees to take her advice. That night at Blooms-End, he writes a rambling but heartfelt plea to
Eustacia. He promises not to mention the past, if Eustacia will only return. Yet he puts the letter aside for
a day, still hoping she will come back first. This decision, surely an act of pride, will turn out to be
Meanwhile, Wildeve has come back home, where Thomasin waits with anxiety. She has noticed his
recent gloominess, his feeling that Egdon Heath is a jail. She complains that he never takes her on his
frequent walks. In fact, she confesses, she followed him this evening and heard him say, "Damn it,
I'll go!" before vanishing into the darkness. Wildeve is angry at her for this, but when she begins to
cry, explaining that she has heard rumors about him and Eustacia, Wildeve calms down. He does not like
scenes, and neither does Thomasin. But though Wildeve prevents a quarrel, to avoid any messy emotional
scenes, he obviously still has no intention of behaving as Thomasin would like him to. In fact, her fears
may even make him realize that he must act soon, if he wants Eustacia. We can only guess, of course, for
the Wildeves are happy to leave many things unsaid.
CHAPTER 7: THE NIGHT OF THE SIXTH OF NOVEMBER
The next day, Eustacia is eager to leave Egdon. Clym could still change her mind, but he does not
appear. Toward late afternoon, she packs a small bundle, as an ominous storm begins to rise upon the
At eight, Eustacia signals Wildeve with a burning branch. An answering light appears instantly
beside The Quiet Woman; Wildeve has been watching vigilantly. The plan is therefore set in motion-
they will meet at midnight.
After supper, Eustacia goes to her bedroom to rest, while Captain Vye sits up, drinking alone. At
about ten, Fairway appears, bearing Clym's letter to Eustacia. Ironically, he had the letter for a while, but
he forgot it until now. If he had remembered earlier, Eustacia might have still been downstairs. As it is,
Captain Vye assumes she's asleep and puts the letter on the mantelpiece, for her to see the next day.
Hardy draws out the suspense hovering over this undelivered letter. Much later, as Captain Vye prepares
for bed, he notices a light in her room, and later he hears her crying as she passes his door. He goes out
into the hall to tell her about the letter, but it is too late. She has disappeared.
Alarmed, Vye discovers that the front door is unlocked. The letter still sits on the mantel, untouched;
we realize that Eustacia has gone off without knowing that Clym wanted her back. Is it just a cruel
coincidence? Hardy points out that her determination to leave is now so strong that even the letter really
would not have stopped her. Neither does the bad weather, or the night, which has become black and
heavy, making us think of death, or the dark forces of fate.
Alone at Rainbarrow, where we first met her, Eustacia stands storm-tossed, without and within.
Questions whirl in her brain. What will she do for money? Will she have to humiliate herself by
becoming Wildeve's mistress? Notice that she still has her pride and moral standards intact; mere passion
would not drive her into his arms. She sobs aloud and talks wildly, saying that Wildeve is "not
great enough" to satisfy her longings, or to cause her to break the vow of marriage. Yet, she has no
money. In a frenzy, she blames fate, "things beyond [her] control" for ruining her life.
Suddenly, Hardy pulls back from the passion of this desperate scene to show Susan Nunsuch, warm
and secure in her cottage. In strangely fascinating detail, he describes her making a small doll out of
melted beeswax and giving it Eustacia's features. Believing in old superstitions, she is making a sort of
voodoo doll. First, she sticks pins into the wax figure. Then she holds it over her fire with tongs,
murmuring the Lord's Prayer backwards as the doll melts.
NOTE: THE MAGICAL DOLL
When Susan works her spell, we remember the many times that
Eustacia has been associated with fire- and with fiery passion. Hardy may not be asking us to believe that
the spell works in a literal way, but, just as the image is consumed by fire, so, is Eustacia consumed by the
fire of her passions. And, just as the image is destroyed by superstitious Susan, Eustacia has probably
been destroyed in part by the ignorance and superstition which have surrounded and suffocated her at
CHAPTER 8: RAIN, DARKNESS, AND ANXIOUS WANDERERS
As the storm gets worse, Clym anxiously waits at Blooms-End, hoping for a reply to his letter- maybe
even a visit from Eustacia herself. He nonetheless falls asleep, only to be aroused by a female voice.
Eagerly, he opens the door, thinking Eustacia has returned, but it is instead Thomasin, looking pitiful,
with her baby in her arms. She reports that Wildeve means to run off with Eustacia, but he hasn't left yet;
she wants Clym to persuade him not to go. He agrees.
As Clym is dressing, Captain Vye appears next, looking for Eustacia. He has just heard from Charley
about the incident with the pistols, and fears that Eustacia has gone off to kill herself. Clym assures him
they will find her at Wildeve's, but Vye decides to return home to wait for her. Clym heads for The Quiet
For some time, Thomasin tries to wait patiently. But unable to endure the suspense, she finally
snatches up her daughter and plunges back into the pouring rain. Her journey is difficult, but her reaction
to the wild weather is, unlike Eustacia's, accepting and rational. Despite her familiarity with the heath,
though, she eventually gets lost, and, coincidentally, she comes upon Diggory Venn's empty van.
Suddenly, as if by magic, he appears. In the confusion of the stormy night, he doesn't recognize
Thomasin at first. In fact, he says, some other woman had just passed by, sobbing; Thomasin intuitively
knows it must have been Eustacia, and resolves to find her. Diggory takes the baby carefully, following
Thomasin's firm, brusque instructions. Notice that she seems much stronger with this man than with her
When they see a light, she thinks they've reached the inn, but Diggory stops her from heading on
alone, and saves her from falling into a deep swamp. Once again, Venn has protected Thomasin from
danger. Even so, she will not trust him with the secret of what is going on. Perhaps she simply is too
loyal, or too proud, to tell a man who loves her that her husband is about to run away.
CHAPTER 9: SIGHTS AND SOUNDS DRAW THE WANDERERS TOGETHER
Notice the purposely deadpan tone of this chapter title. Suspense is high, but Hardy pretends that
events are happening by themselves, that even he is not in control.
As we now learn, Wildeve had decided that money would solve everything. He planned to ease his
conscience by leaving half his inheritance to Thomasin; then Eustacia could share the rest with him.
Hardy, however, probably would not agree that money by itself is the answer to any human problem;
Wildeve is shallow and deluded. He is also being stood up. He waits in the rain with his horse and gig
until a quarter past midnight. At the sound of a footstep, he rushes forward, calling
"Eustacia?"; the light from his lamp falls upon Clym. Hardy seems to be stressing that the
unexpected is part of life. Wildeve awaits his love; instead, he finds her husband.
Suddenly, the two men are startled by the sound of a body falling into the nearby stream near a weir,
or small dam. Clym immediately senses it must be Eustacia, alarming Wildeve.
Together, the rivals rush to the circular pool below the weir. Swollen by the storm, it has become a
raging whirlpool. They glimpse a body in the water; Wildeve jumps in passionately, without thinking.
Typically, Clym acts more rationally, first positioning the lamp and then wading in from a shallow area.
Nonetheless, he too is drawn into the whirlpool.
Now Thomasin and Diggory arrive on the scene. Venn, hands the baby to Thomasin and tells her to
rush home for help. Notice the symbolism behind the actions of each character in this scene: just as in
their emotional lives, Wildeve is impulsive, Clym tries to be calm but is swept away, and Diggory plods
through competently to the end.
Finally, Diggory seizes a body and drags it out. It is a man, with another man clutching onto his legs.
As help arrives, the unconscious figures are laid upon the grass. It was Wildeve, holding on to Clym.
Some readers think Wildeve grabbed Clym to save himself; others think he was trying to drag Clym
down with him. Your answer will depend on your final assessment of Wildeve's character.
Quickly, the pool is probed with a pole, and an object is felt. Again, Venn goes into the water, and
comes up with Eustacia's cold body.
The three victims are taken back to The Quiet Woman and laid close to the fire. Eventually, Clym
alone comes back to life. Diggory, uncertain of the role he should play now, leaves and then wanders
back. Thomasin has thoughtfully left a message that Diggory should have whatever he wants. He stands
by the fireplace, pondering how things have changed since the raffle, the last time he was there. Like
Hardy, Diggory sees the future is uncertain, appearances can deceive, and there is no such thing in human
affairs as permanence. The nurse comes downstairs, to try to dry out the paper money found on Wildeve's
body, but we realize that all his lucky money can't help him now.
Early in the morning, Charley appears for news of Eustacia. Looking dead himself, Clym allows
Charley to view her corpse. Ironically, both Eustacia and Wildeve look as handsome as ever in death,
although Wildeve's fingers show telling scars of a desperate failed attempt to hold on to life.
The atmosphere of peace is shattered, however, by Clym's eerie remark, that Eustacia is the second
woman he's killed this year. Diggory tells him not to feel responsible, but Clym cannot listen. No matter
how good his intentions were, the consequences have been tragic. He feels that no punishment will ever
help him atone for being involved in the deaths of two women he loved.
Was Clym really at fault? Or was he the victim of chance occurrences? Could both things be true at
once? Hardy lets you wrestle with that problem on your own.
BOOK SIX: AFTERCOURSES
Because of public demand, Hardy changed his intended ending in this short, final book. Readers who
had been following this tale of Egdon Heath in magazine form, as it first appeared, did not want to be left
with a completely unhappy conclusion. Against his original plan, Hardy now lets some light and joy into
this novel of darkness and tragedy.
CHAPTER 1: THE INEVITABLE MOVEMENT ONWARD
Their death makes Eustacia and Wildeve become legendary in the Egdon area, as if these two had
really been larger than life. Yet Thomasin's private grief for her husband is gradually eased over the
following year, by the delight of seeing baby Eustacia grow. Thomasin and her daughter move back to
Blooms-End, where Clym keeps to himself in a couple of upstairs rooms. Thomasin is now wealthy and
independent, with Wildeve's legacy, but she and her cousin live quite simply.
Unlike Eustacia, Clym does not blame fate for his situation; he bitterly reproaches himself. As another
year passes, Clym is still only dimly aware of the happy domestic life shared by Thomasin and her
daughter in their part of the house. He is studying again, using books with very large type because of his
still-weak vision. Clym seems scarred, crippled almost by his tragedy.
One summer day, Diggory appears at Blooms-End. He's a new man, no longer stained with red. As
Clym enters, Venn explains that he's given up the reddleman's trade to take over his late father's dairy
herd. He and Thomasin are uneasy with each other, but Clym, typically, does not notice.
We learn that the common folk are going to put up a Maypole in an adjacent field for a festival the
following day. That evening, Clym watches as the young people wreathe the pole with wildflowers.
NOTE: THE SYMBOL OF THE MAYPOLE
The Maypole, Hardy notes, is a relic of pagan
customs. Remember that we have already seen festivals associated with other seasons: the Christmas
party in winter, the moonlight dance in summer, the bonfires of autumn. Now we will see the festival of
spring, symbolic of fertility and renewed life. It suggests that new life may also be possible for Thomasin.
The next morning, Thomasin wakes to see the pole in place and smell the sweet fragrance of its
flowers. The sight delights her, and, for the first time since Wildeve's death, she dresses in bright clothes.
Clym compliments her. When she blushes, he suddenly wonders if she might be trying to attract him. It's
an unsettling thought; love, for him, burnt itself out with Eustacia. As the brass band arrives, Clym slips
away, unable to endure the good times. He doesn't return until dusk, when the scene is quiet again.
Thomasin, he learns, had not joined the party, out of a sense of propriety.
Outside, one figure remains, strolling idly; it is Diggory. Thomasin tells him that she watched him
dance and noticed that he had his pick of dancing partners all evening. Venn says he is waiting for the
moon to rise so that he can find a glove dropped by an unnamed young woman, someone he did not dance
with. Thomasin is astounded, particularly since he still has a long walk home ahead of him.
From inside the house, she watches as he searches. She tells herself that she is annoyed that he should
behave so foolishly, now that he's respectable, but we may detect an undercurrent of jealousy. Finally,
she sees Diggory find the glove and kiss it before putting it in his breast-pocket.
CHAPTER 2: THOMASIN WALKS IN A GREEN PLACE BY THE ROMAN ROAD
Days later, Thomasin tells Clym that she is still wondering about the identity of the owner of the
glove, fretting that none of the dancers was good enough for Diggory. Thomasin's gentle, childish
obsession is a touching sign of her awakening emotions- far different from the wild passions we've seen
other lovers show.
Some time later, Thomasin cannot find one of her own gloves. Rachel, a young servant, confesses that
she borrowed Thomasin's gloves for the Maypole dance and lost one. Diggory, Rachel adds, knew this.
Stunned, Thomasin ponders this information all afternoon.
The next day, Diggory appears on horseback as Thomasin is playing with little Eustacia on the heath.
Thomasin abruptly asks for the glove. Diggory pulls it out of his breast-pocket. As they go on talking they
begin to tease each other, beginning a flirtation. Soon, the two are meeting regularly at this hollow of the
heath, near the old Roman road. A new cycle of love begins in this ancient, timeless place.
CHAPTER 3: THE SERIOUS DISCOURSE OF CLYM WITH HIS COUSIN
Meanwhile, ironically, Clym has begun to feel that it may be his duty to marry Thomasin. He feels he
does not love her, but he feels sorry for her, and, after all, his mother, always wanted them to get
together. Some readers think Clym is fooling himself, talking himself into doing something he really
wants to do anyway. Others feel he's being honest when he admits he is "a mere corpse of a
Finally, Clym decides to let Thomasin decide. When he tries to bring up the subject with her,
however, she has news of her own; she wants his approval of her decision to marry. Once more, Clym's
indecision has made him delay an action until it's too late. He gives her his approval- until he learns that
her choice is Venn. Clym, for all his idealistic love of his fellow man, secretly shares his mother's strain
of snobbery, and he doesn't think Diggory is good enough. But Thomasin knows herself; she admits that
she has "countrified ways," and says she "couldn't be happy anywhere else but
Egdon." (How unlike Eustacia!)
To do him credit, Clym doesn't really want to be an obstacle; he appreciates Venn's honest, kind,
steady qualities. Thomasin points out that Diggory is much more respectable in his new line of work.
Some days later, Humphrey tells Clym that the lovers are meeting frequently. Finally, Thomasin takes
matters into her own hands, telling Clym that a date for the wedding has been set.
NOTE: THE FOOTNOTE
In a strange footnote, Hardy sketches for the reader his originally
intended ending, where Thomasin remains widow and Diggory goes on in his isolated, weird life as a
reddleman. The novelist suggests that the "true" ending is "the more consistent
conclusion." Happy or unhappy- which ending is in fact the "more consistent" with the
rest of the book? We know what Hardy believes, but all readers may not agree with him.
CHAPTER 4: CHEERFULNESS AGAIN ASSERTS ITSELF AT BLOOMS-END,
AND CLYM FINDS HIS VOCATION
On the morning of the wedding, the familiar crowd of villagers gathers at Fairway's cottage to make
a goose-feather mattress for the newlyweds. As usual, Grandfer Cantle and Christian argue, and Fairway
keeps the peace. The natures of the Egdon commonfolk do not change, as we know. Unexpectedly early,
the wedding party passes by outside. This marriage has taken place rapidly, quite unlike Thomasin's first
one. The villagers cheer the couple, an obviously popular pair.
That afternoon, Clym works alone upstairs on a sermon. He will not join the wedding feast in the
evening, because he would not be happy in the company. Only two-and-a-half years earlier, it was
unhappy Thomasin who would not participate in the Christmas party given for him. Hardy loves to
remind us of these contrasts.
When the celebration begins at evening, Clym slips out unobserved and walks to a point where he can
see Eustacia's former home. Charley, too, walks by, still depressed by Eustacia's death himself. He asks
Clym for some keepsake that belonged to her. Back at Blooms-End, Clym gives the boy a lock of
Eustacia's hair, which Charley kisses tearfully.
As the two go back out into the night, dim-sighted Clym asks Charley to describe what can be seen of
the festivities through the window. The party is lively; no one misses Clym. Symbolically, perhaps, Clym
has already begun his solitary life as a preacher, separated from the activities of ordinary people.
The following Sunday, Clym can be seen atop Rainbarrow, his wife's old lookout point. He is not
waiting for romantic love, however; he is preaching about brotherly love to a group of heath men and
women. This afternoon, his text is from the Bible, a reference to King Solomon's willingness to do his
mother's will. Clym is still feeling guilty about his behavior toward his mother.
Hardy tells us that Clym will continue this new career, traveling widely. He will do well enough; some
people will agree with his ideas, and everyone will be kind, because of what has happened to him.
NOTE: HEROES OR VILLAINS?
As the story ends, you may probably agree that no character
has been really wicked. On the other hand, no character has been blameless. Although Hardy's characters
are very different from each other, they do have this in common- like all human beings, they are a
mixture of selfishness and generosity, of cruelty and kindness. And they are all affected by the arbitrary
workings of fate.
A STEP BEYOND
THE STORY, continued
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