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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Eustacia

Eustacia is called "Queen of the Night" in the novel, alluding to the dark side of her character and her frequent outings at night. It is appropriate that this dark-haired beauty of exotic appearance and with pagan eyes is first seen in the book in the darkness of night, as she secretively meets with Wildeve, her former lover. It is even more appropriate that the novel ends with her suicide that also occurs in the darkness of night.

Eustacia is Captain Vye's granddaughter and Clym Yeobright's wife. She is also admired by Charley and loved on and off by Damon Wildeve. By nature she seems to be a woman who lives to love and "to be loved to madness." Unfortunately, there is no one on the heath that she can fully love; as a result, she is not loved to madness in return and fills her life is unfilled. She marries Clym and has an affair with Wildeve, but neither man can satisfy Eustacia's longing for an excitement beyond the heath. In fact, Eustacia hates the heath with its plain scenery and plain people. She has lived in Budmouth, a "fashionable" seaside resort and is used to its pleasures and the company of sophisticated people. On the heath, there are no distractions for her, and Eustacia "felt like one banished."


Much has been written on the "blackness" of Eustacia's character. Hardy himself insists that "she was not altogether unlovable." In fact, Clym, Wildeve, and Charley find much in her to love. Eustacia simply cannot return that love, for all three men are firmly tied to the heath, and her hopes and dreams are elsewhere. She marries Clym, not out of passion, but because she truly feels she will be able to convince him to return to Paris with her.

In the great scene of the locked door, on which the whole novel seems to hinge, much is made of poor Mrs. Yeobright's not being admitted into the house; but Eustacia honestly thinks that Clym will hear the knock and open the door. When she finds Clym still soundly asleep, she hastens to the door, unfastens it, and looks out. Mrs. Yeobright has already left, and Eustacia feels terrible. She certainly intended no cruelty. Her mistakes are ones of poor judgment. She acts foolishly when she lets Wildeve into the house while Clym sleeps on the floor; but she recognizes the foolishness of the action. In fact, Eustacia bids Wildeve good-bye permanently, telling him, "This is your first visit here; let it be your last. We have been hot lovers in our time, but it won't do now." Eustacia knows and accepts that she is a married woman.

The characters in the book react in very differing ways to Eustacia. The females think of her in a negative light. Mrs. Yeobright thinks that she is a "hussy" and is horrified that her son is going to marry her. Susan Nonesuch is convinced that Eustacia is a witch and burns an effigy of her. Even the mild Thomasin thinks this dark- haired, aloof woman is stealing her husband away from her. The men, on the other hand, are highly attracted to Eustacia. Charley seems to worship her from afar and delights in being able to hold her hand one time during the novel. Wildeve cannot seem to get enough of her, always running to her signal. Even the practical Clym is immediately drawn to her upon his return to the heath. He totally ignores the pleadings of his mother against her and woos and wins Eustacia.

Throughout the novel, Eustacia often acts spoiled and childish. She rarely accepts responsibility for her actions, but casually blames everything on fate. In addition, she always wants what she cannot have. When Wildeve marries Thomasin, he suddenly becomes much more attractive to Eustacia. Because she wants to escape the heath, she marries Clym, feeling certain she can convince him to return to Paris. When Clym refuses to take her there, Eustacia pouts and changes her feelings towards her husband. Although she feels guilty about Mrs. Yeobright not being admitted, Eustacia immaturely hides the facts from Clym. In all of her actions, she shows immaturity, naiveté, and selfishness. It is these traits that lead the unhappy Eustacia to commit suicide in the darkness of night.

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