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Protagonist: Clement Yeobright is the protagonist of the novel. He is a true native of the heath, wishing to combine plain living with intellectual life. As the contact between Eustacia and Clym progresses, the impossibility of their ever living in amity becomes more and more apparent, for their differences are irreconcilable. The relationship between Clym and his mother, stated to be a relation of love, runs aground on two occasions: the first is the conflict created by her son's desire to give up a promising career to become a school master, and the second is her growing opposition to the swiftly developing relationship between Clym and Eustacia. The conflict between Clym and Wildeve is for the most part played down; it develops significance only when Clym feels that Wildeve's presence is the reason his mother was kept out of the house.
Clym's antagonist is trying to find a peaceful existence on Egdon Heath after his "return as the native". This is complicated by his temperamental marriage to Eustacia and his separation from his demanding mother.
The climax occurs when Clym charges Eustacia with infidelity to him and cruelty to his mother, causing her death. Clym's accusations, in turn, lead indirectly to Eustacia's death.
The novel ends in tragedy, for Clym has not found the peace he seeks on the heath. He loses both his mother and Eustacia and blames himself for both deaths. When Clym accuses his wife of infidelity and cruelty to his mother, accusations that cause her death, he does not allow her to explain. Eustacia leaves, numbed both by fear and by a sense of injustice. Back at Captain's Vye's house, when the bonfire summons Wildeve, she reluctantly requests his help in fleeing the place. Coincidentally, she misses Clym's letter of reconciliation and invitation to return to him. As a result of her seemingly hopeless condition, she throws herself into a stream and dies. Wildeve also dies trying to rescue her.
The subplots also end in tragedy. During the novel, Eustacia's goal is to flee the heath; in fact, she marries Clym, thinking he will take her to Paris. In the end of the book, she abandons her plan to leave the heath and throws herself into the stream. As a result, she is permanently returned to the heath from which she so wanted to escape. Wildeve, who also wants to flee the heath, comes into an inheritance that will allow him to make his dreams come true. He tells Eustacia he plans to live it up and travel. Ironically, he is unable to make this happen for he sacrifices himself trying to save Eustacia. Like her, he is now permanently buried on the heath. Only Diggory Venn, who is a very minor character is the plot, is successful in overcoming his antagonist. In the sixth book of the novel, which is added as a conclusion, Venn wins Thomasin as his wife.