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The Return of the Native



"To sorrow

I bade good morrow,

And thought to leave her far away behind;

But cheerly, cheerly,

She loves me dearly;

She is so constant to me, and so kind.

I would deceive her,

And so leave her,

But ah! she is so constant and so kind."

Author's Preface

The date at which the following events are assumed to have occurred may be set down as between 1840 and 1850, when the old watering-place herein called "Budmouth" still retained sufficient afterglow from its Georgian gaiety and prestige to lend it an absorbing attractiveness to the romantic and imaginative soul of a lonely dweller inland.

Under the general name of "Egdon Heath," which has been given to the sombre scene of the story, are united or typified heaths of various real names, to the number of at least a dozen; these being virtually one in character and aspect, though their original unity, or partial unity, is now somewhat disguised by intrusive strips and slices brought under the plough with varying degrees of success, or planted to woodland.

It is pleasant to dream that some spot in the extensive tract whose south-western quarter is here described, may be the heath of that traditionary King of Wessex—Lear.

T.H., July, 1895


To prevent disappointment to searchers for scenery it should be added that though the action of the narrative is supposed to proceed in the central and most secluded part of the heaths united into one whole, as above described, certain topographical features resembling those delineated really lie on the margin of the waste, several miles to the westward of the centre. In some other respects also there has been a bringing together of scattered characteristics.

The first edition of this novel was published in three volumes in 1878.

T.H., April, 1912

This novel revolves around five people mainly, and the Egdon Heath. Clym, the native who returns to Egdon changes the life of Mrs. Yeobright, Eustacia, Thomasin, Mr, Wildeve and his own. Eustacia, the heroine and Clym are two contrasting characters beautifully sketched by the author. But I personally liked Mr. Venn, the reddleman the most, maybe because of his presence at the right places, at the right times. Even the Rustics play an important part in this novel. Hardy's use of a barren heath and his art of characterisation are truly remarkable.--Submitted by renderings2u

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Recent Forum Posts on The Return of the Native

Eustacia Vye vs Emma Bovary

I have read online and in books that some critics have compared Eustacia Vye to Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary. I took exception to this. Eustacia Vye has a lot of spark. In my view she is rarely mean to anyone; she is just proud and stands up for herself. I sympathised with Emma Bovary, but I thought she was silly and irresponsible, although she was not the most rotten character in the book by a long way.

What do you understand a heath to be?

What do you regard as a heath. I regard it as rabbit country, with poor soil and lots of gorse bushes everywhere. Something like this: That is how it seemed to me to be described in the book. You cannot grow crops on it because the soil is too poor. Sounds like you can't even graze sheep on it because there is not actually much grass. I do not think a heath is the same as a moor because it need not be high up or particularly hilly. I don't think the land was very productive, economically speaking. Cutting furze or turf for fuel does not sound very remunerative. I wondered whether anyone owned those heath-cropper ponies or whether they were wild. What do they eat? If you cannot graze sheep on the land, then how can ponies survive? I watched a YouTube promo clip on the TV series of Return of the Native with Catherine Zeta Jones. One thing that bothers me about it is that it was filmed on Exmoor. Exmoor is not a heath, it's a moor.

Arcane words and allusions

Reading this book reminds me of a TV show from my youth called Call My Bluff, in which two teams of three read out definitions of little known English words. Two of the definitions were false and one true. In the latest chapter I read were skein, captious and contumely. Then there are all the references to the bible and to classical mythology. I suppose Victorian readers would have understood the allusions better than today's. After reading a chapter I have to read a page of notes on all the references. Tess of the d'Urbervilles was like that, but from memory, The Woodlanders and Far From the Madding Crowd weren't too bad.

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. SPOILER ALERT 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?

Return of the Native-Hardy

Does anyone know a lot about this book? I have a project and I could use some help. Thanks.

The return of the native

This was a fine book. I read it twice. I like Eustacia and Wildeve, but I also like Clym. I think that all the characters were were well portrayted and I enjoyed reading the book. It is probably one of the best Hardy books. what do you think of it?

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Related links for Thomas Hardy

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Thomas Hardy written by other authors featured on this site.

Thomas Hardy

Book One. The Three Women

Book Two. The Arrival

Book Three. The Fascination

Book Four. The Closed Door

Book Five. The Discovery

Book Six. The Aftercourses

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