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How important is the question of social position in this novel - The return of the Native.

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Introduction

How important is the question of social position in this novel? The concept of social position should be a vague one when viewed from the supposedly non-judgmental and classless civilization of 2003. But in truth it is not. Social position is determined by the wealth and name into which you were born and Hardy realised the prominence of the distinction between higher and lower and used it both morally and technically throughout The Return of the Native. There is no denying that the happenings of the novel concentrate on the privileged members of the heath community. The Vye and the Yeobright families are presented as the two ruling families of the heath between whom there is a subtle suggestion of rivalry. There are times at which we get the impression that this is almost a feudal society (the gathering at Blooms End for the Christmas mumming, the constant chatting between heath folk about these elite of the community). ...read more.

Middle

There is evidence of the heath folk having something of a technical purpose in this novel. In the fifth chapter of the second book we see an apparently comical discussion about time which on the surface seems somewhat patronizing but can be analysed as being an expression of more philosophical concerns, 'with the mention of time we are reminded of the power that the heath has over time'. To this extent social position is important because it gives Hardy a section of society which he can manipulate to suit his needs. e would imagine that he would have far more respect for these symbols. However, perhaps these characters are more archetypal than stereotypical. Compared to the respectively week characters of Clym Yeobright and Diggery Venn the members of this 'Shakespearian chorus' have substance. Though there is little to suggest that this is intentional, to view these characters as light entertainment is belittling. ...read more.

Conclusion

The image of 'the drippings of rain from her umbrella to her mantle, from her mantle to the heather, from the heather to the earth' is just as suggestive of at oneness being at one with the heath as the burning of ritual fires and superstitions of the heath folk. Hardy seems to be challenging the traditional Victorian social structure. He maybe making another point about the virtues of rural life or simply discussing the unimportance of social position of even addressing the radical concept of its non-existence. Hardy realized that he had to make this novel appeal to his audience (middle-class library goers) so to break the tradition of concerning plot with the respectable could not be done. Therefore, arguably like many Victorian novelsist, he presents something of a cross section. Many would say, in terms of importance to the novel, that social position has little bearing on plot or whatever but as a theme, of which the novel is made up, I would argue that this very important and possibly the most interesting. ...read more.

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