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Thread: Eustacia's death

  1. #1
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Somewhere in the South East of England

    Eustacia's death

    I have just re-read Return of the Native, and a very fine book it is and couldn’t have been written by anyone else.


    However I wasn’t clear whether Eustacia commits suicide or just falls into the weir. I know she’s been suicidal, but we’ve been told she’s got over it. I know she’s got ready to flee and then realised (silly soul) that she hasn’t any money. But she isn't described, I thought, as more desperate than she has been. I knew she was due to drown. But we didn’t have any description of her falling in.

    On the other hand, the whole book is a stream of repeated unfortunate accidents from when Wildeve finds he’s got the wrong licence onwards. (I found myself screaming internally “No, Christian, don’t do it!). It would be in keeping with everyone’s bad luck if she just slipped.

    Or is Hardy leaving it deliberately ambiguous. Or is suicide, like sex, something the Victorian novel writer just couldn’t describe?
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  2. #2
    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    Jul 2015
    Did she, or didn`t she ?

    I personally believe that she did commit suicide. Suicides feature heavily in Hardy`s works. I get the feeling, reading between the lines, and seeing things from a perspective different to our 21st C sensibilities, that suicide in the Victorian era was considered a somewhat "noble" way to go..He does not necessarily hold back from mentioning suicides. (Note to myself - when I next re-read I must do a "body count" in all the novels).

    I think in The Return of the Native Hardy is (maybe deliberately) taking a retrograde step backwards to his "Sensationalist Novel" beginnings, and Eustacia`s suicide is a nod in that direction. There are aspects of sensationalism in all of his novels I think - there is always something untoward going to happen, no matter how peaceful things seem at the outset.

    Two particular scenes I enjoyed from Return was Wildeve and Venn throwing dice by the light of a Glow-worm ! and the heath-dwellers trying to revive Mrs Yeobright from her snake bite..

    I am glad you enjoyed your re-read Jackson; how do the characters and their escapades compare with your favoutite Jane`s ?
    Last edited by Diggory Venn; 06-04-2016 at 03:22 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Thank you. As well as the blindingly obvious differences between Austen and Hardy, I noticed one interesting point. Austen is brilliant at the relationship between daughters and parents, but she never looks in any depth at the relationship between sons and mothers. (Mrs Ferrars in S&S is a crude caricature.)

    But here the relationship between Clym and his mother is central. She is hardly maternal, cuddly or supportive, but first Clym marries a woman as imperious, passionate and distant as his mum, and when she dies he almost canonises her, despite her previous lack of sympathy. The novel ends with him preaching a secular sermon on an obscure Biblical text which is about a mother pleading with her son. Is it that her possessiveness lives on in the guilt she inspires?

    The details I remember from my last reading is Mrs Yeobright’s doomed (but what isn’t in Hardy?) walk over the heath in the blazing sun to her son’s. Very interesting that the heath is shown at its most hostile and destructive of human endeavour not when it is wild, wet and windy (as it would be any good horror movie) but on a brilliant summer’s day. I sympathise – you can wrap up against rain but intense heat (though we will be lucky to get any this summer in the South of England) is unbearable.

    I can imagine Eustacia and Mrs Yeobright in a Jane Austen novel would be shown up for their vanity. But Hardy makes me sorry for both of them, despite their unattractive features.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  4. #4
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    Sep 2014
    Hello Jackson Richardson and Diggory Venn!

    I finished reading The Return of the Native a few days ago.
    I think the black magic spell that Susan Nunsuch cast on Eustacia had an effect on her mind, and that, added to her great distress, made her commit suicide.

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Jan 2016
    Beyond nowhere
    Did she, or didn`t she?

    This ambiguity makes Eustacia´s death more interesting. In the end it´s the reader who has to decide.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  6. #6
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Reading, England
    What a lot of jolly rotten luck. A shame about Eustacia, she is my favourite Hardy heroine so far.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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