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Critics have often claimed that the principal 'character' of this novel is Egdon Heath itself. Explore Hardy's description and portrayal of the Heath from this point of view. What is your view of its role and personality?

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Introduction

Critics have often claimed that the principal 'character' of this novel is Egdon Heath itself. Explore Hardy's description and portrayal of the Heath from this point of view. What is your view of its role and personality? Egdon Heath is an important character in The Return of the Native and is named before any of the other characters. The heath is described in the very first chapter of the book as the 'vast tract of unenclosed wild' and is present throughout the entire novel. The heath is alive with a conscious of its own and displays human qualities such as sleeping, breathing, thinking and even to "appear slowly to awake and listen". It destroys anyone who is against its never-changing environment and as well as shaping the attitudes and cultures of the Rustics, the heath is also physically and spiritually important throughout the novel: characters are defined by their relation to the heath, such as Eustacia and Clym. The heath also plays an important role in highlighting the importance of the main character: Clym, the native. There is however, no definite 'character' of the heath because its descriptions vary from sublime to destructive and Hardy uses the narrator to express this. ...read more.

Middle

Yeobright dies of exhaustion after being bitten by an adder whilst Wildeve and Eustacia are drowned by a storm. Although Mrs. Yeobright neither loves nor hates the heath, it puts her out of her misery because she was a "broken-hearted woman cast off by her son". Wildeve is not part of the heath and cannot initiate a rebellion but he responds to Eusacia's "fire" and is consumed in her flames. An example of this is in Book 4 chapter 4 when Wildeve's moth is engulfed in Eustacia's flame. Last but not least is Eustacia's strong hatred for the heath which finally leads to her extinguished flame; her drowning. Ironically Eustacia resembles the heath the most and is the only one who understands its dominating character. Therefore the heath remains wild with a character of its own. Although Egdon heath is an important character and destroys all that defy it, Eustacia, the person who rejects it the most, also strongly resembles it. Both have a mysterious and dark nature which is apparent throughout the novel. Hardy mentions the heath's mystery in the opening chapter: "The face of the heath by its mere complexion added half-an-hour to eve; it could in like manner retard the ...read more.

Conclusion

Clym would "give it up and try to follow some rational occupation among the people I knew best, and to whom I could be of most use" but Eustacia " 'O deliver my heart from this fearful gloom and loneliness...else I shall die". Despite these obvious warnings about their mismatch, they fail to acknowledge it. Therefore Clym is 'blinded' from the beginning. Another couple that have similar views on Egdon but do not marry until the last book is Thomasin and Diggory Venn. The heath is pleasant for Thomasin and unlike Eustacia, she does not believe that the heath is against her. Thomasin uses the heath as comfort to her and her baby literally and metaphorically. Similarly, Venn uses the heath to trap Wildeve. Both have similar views on the heath which is a symbol of their appropriateness for each other. There is no doubt that Egdon heath is a principal character in The Return of the Native and I think the main purpose of this was for the audience to know that the heath is unchangeable: "The sea changed, the fields changed, the rivers, the villages, and the people changed, yet Egdon remained". The heath is a "complex symbol of alien and indifferent nature"2. 1 Fiction: The Major Chord 2 Fiction: The Major Chord Return of the Native Stephanie Ko, L6 ...read more.

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