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Return of the Native - Notes.

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Introduction

RETURN OF THE NATIVE NOTES BY THOMAS HARDY BOOK ONE CHAPTERS 1-2 Summary Twilight descends on Egdon Heath. It is Saturday, the fifth of November. Egdon Heath, which figures in the Doomsday Book of 1086, has changed little since then. Human presence is evident only by the existence of a road and the prehistoric burial mounds that dot the Heath. An old man wearing naval clothes walks along the road; he reaches a spring van beside which walks a reddleman. Though the reddleman is not the talkative kind, the old man is inquisitive and manages to extract enough information from the reddleman to learn that the van contains a young lady. But the reddleman will say no more, and they soon part company. The old man goes onward, and the young one, having turned his van and horses onto the turf, rests awhile. While he rests, the reddleman notices the figure of a woman on top of Rain barrow, the highest point in the heath. Very soon, this figure is replaced by others who light a bonfire. Notes The entire first chapter is devoted to Egdon Heath, even though there is a total absence of any human beings there; but Egdon Heath is very important to the novel. As the setting of the book, it dominates the plot and determines the fate of the characters. The Heath presents a harsh, lonely face on which time has made hardly an impression. Its vegetation makes it appear to wear a dark brown dress. ...read more.

Middle

Wildeve sees the bonfire lit by Eustacia and believes it is a signal for him. He immediately starts off towards Mistover Knap. Notes Mrs. Yeobright proves herself to be a noble-hearted woman with "great strength of character," who is unafraid to speak her mind. When she learns that Wildeve has not married her niece, she goes into the inn to demand an explanation of the wily Wildeve. Originally not in favour of the marriage to the extent that she had publicly disapproved of it in church, now that she has become resigned to it, she is quite indignant about the fact that her young niece has been held up at the altar. She has no hesitation about speaking her mind. Although not much detail is given about Wildeve, Hardy presents him in a negative light in these chapters. In the beginning, Mrs. Yeobright was opposed to her niece marrying him, probably for good reason. Now, he has not carried through with the wedding and does not give an adequate explanation as to why. Although he privately tells Thomasin that he still plans to marry her, he has created questions in the reader's mind about his sincerity and his character. At the end of chapter 5, he is seen hurrying to see Eustacia Vye, which sheds more negative light on his actions. Another interesting character is the reddleman, Diggory Venn. He is by profession an itinerant seller of reddle, red chalk used to brand or mark sheep. ...read more.

Conclusion

Back at home, Captain Vye mentions that Clym Yeobright is returning home from Paris at Christmas. Notes At the end of Book One, the stage is set for the arrival of the protagonist and Eustacia's attraction to him. Wildeve earlier recognizes that Eustacia hates the heath. She agrees with his observation and says that the heath is "my cross, my shame, and will be my death," words that clearly foreshadow her tragic end on Egdon. To such a person, any whiff of fresh air on the heath must be a godsend; that he comes directly from Paris is even more meaningful. It is ironic that the resourcefulness of Venn backfires. He is neither able to dissuade Eustacia from playing fast and loose with Thomasin's chance of a happy marriage, nor does Wildeve withdraw from his involvement with Eustacia, even after knowing that Thomasin has another suitor. It is also ironic that the arrival of Clym should coincide with the disillusionment of Eustacia after hearing that Thomasin, a "socially inferior woman," has rejected Wildeve. New facets of Eustacia's character are revealed here. At first, Wildeve becomes dearer in her eyes when another woman intends to marry him, but that Thomasin has supposedly rejected him comes as a shock to her. "What a humiliating victory! What was the man worth, whom a woman inferior to herself did not value?" Eustacia is perverse enough to want something only so long as it is unattainable and conceited enough to think that she is much better than Thomasin. She is also petty enough to change her evaluation of Wildeve based upon Thomasin's rejection of him. ...read more.

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