Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy





Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Summary and Thesis

The novel starts with the plot already in full flow with Diggory Venn coming into scene alongside Thomasin Yeobright. Thomasin’s marriage to Damon Wildeve had been delayed by a mistake on the marriage certificate that was made intentionally by Damon himself who was keener on Eustacia Vye than on marrying Thomasin. The plot is complicated further when Venn discovers the affair between Wildeve and Eustacia and driven by love, seeks to intervene in the matter. Within this confusion of lovers, enter Clym Yeobright who happens to be Thomasin’s cousin who wins the heart of Eustacia who sees the urbane in him. With Eustacia engaged, Wildeve finally attained the chance to marry Thomasin. The plot is further confused when Wildeve lusts after the married Eustacia even though he is still married. In the end, Eustacia, Wildeve, and his mother die leaving Thomasin and Diggory to rekindle their lost love. The analysis of the writing style and context will be conducted to reveal the claims and affirm their validity in a contemporary context.

Novel Context, Claims, and Contemporary Context

Contemporary consumers of literary material have a tendency of assuming the concept that literature does not express, or even attempt to put across, absolute truth. Dating back to the modernist movement, literature has embraced the tendency to pose inquiries rather than define answers. In nearly all his publications, Hardy awarded a great significance to setting. Most of his successful novels were all based in the Wessex region of England that was his own native home. In his works, it is relatively easy to establish the effect of geography, language, and culture of Wessex area. In fact, The Return of the Native bases its central theme in Egdon Heath, an upland located in Wessex. The narrative is severely fixed in the folk traditions of the inhabitants of the Heath. It endeavors to reproduce their thoughts and their speech patterns. The educated Clym Yeobright’s return to the heath furnishes the novel’s heading and catalyzing predicament. This definitely derives from Thomas Hardy’s experience that several years before the publication of The Return of the Native made his own exodus to his native country. In my opinion, most contemporary publications have also steered clear of conventional topics and instead discussed controversial 21st century events and themes such as sexuality and urbanization. Authors such as James Baldwin and Thomas Mann have written extensively on homosexuality in their books, Giovanni’s Room and Death in Venice respectively. Therefore, I think that Thomas Hardy was quite relevant in his era and context in the same way that contemporary writers draw inspiration from their own lives.

One of the properties of Thomas Hardy’s literature is unreliability: writers and readers acknowledge that literature is complex and that it is not to be believed. The plot of the novel pivots around numerous differences in perception. Most of the major plot constituents in the narrative are based on misconceptions. Most conspicuously, Eustacia’s refusal to allow Mrs. Yeobright entry, an oversight that leads to Wildeve’s mother dying. Clym’s ultimate near- blindness reflects a sort of intense internal sightlessness that troubles all the main proponents in the novel: they are unable to perceive the truth concerning each other. Clym and Eustacia misconstrue each other’s intentions and genuine ambitions; Venn’s intentions remain a secret; Wildeve misleads Clym, Eustacia, and Thomasin. The characters remain difficult to understand for the reader, too. When The Return of the Native was first released, modern critics condemned the narrative for its lack of compassionate characters. All of the novel’s actors prove themselves deeply imperfect, or at least, possessing ambiguous motivation. Clym Yeobright, the novel’s genius, elegant, bighearted protagonist, is also, through his intolerance and single-minded envy, the reason for the novel’s great tragedy. Diggory Venn can be perceived either as an obliging, generous guardian or as a devious schemer. Likewise, even the opposed characters in the story have their own redeeming features. Personally, I agree with the author’s stand that no single character could only possess good or bad qualities. In the real world, every individual has both attractive and undesirable qualities and by capturing this in his novel, Thomas Hardy managed to introduce a sense of reality in his publication.

Personal Opinion

The Return of the Native is the sixth publication in Thomas Hardy’s portfolio that contained controversial themes that were set in the era of modernism especially within the English landscape. Hardy’s works reflected an individual who was drifting away from the conventional and rigid Victorian social and sexual taboos and towards one who embraced atheism and prejudiced morality. I found this choice of topic to be rather rebellious because in the Victorian era, most social issues were seldom exposed in public literature. Therefore, I perceived Thomas Hardy as a pioneer of the modern age writing. Most of his earlier novels and poems received little attention until 1874 when he released Far from the Madding Crowd that were quickly followed by other successful novels.

Possibly the most indefinite feature of the novel was its conclusion. The novel gives the impression of prioritizing an austere comprehension of human nature. Given the calamity of Eustacia and Wildeve drowning, it was unlikely that the novel could end happily. However, Diggory Venn and Thomasin end up cheerfully married. The novel was not envisaged in this way, in the first place. Hardy was compelled to give the novel a happy conclusion in order to appease Victorian readers. Readers, I included, often expect narratives with tragedy in them to end on a happy note. Introducing an anti-climax in the story would be tantamount to defying the norms set out by the readers themselves. However, while not being a tragedy in itself, The return of the Native, had a disastrous end. In an atypical footnote, Hardy stated, “The writer may state here that the original conception of the story did not design a marriage between Thomasin and Venn…” (Hardy 36). To an extent, I felt that Thomas Hardy was somewhat sadistic and chose to award dark attitudes and habits to all his characters.


Thomas Hardy is one of the few brilliant writers who managed to survive by writing modern themes in a Victorian environment that desired secure, normal, and conventional themes. Most Victorians preferred oppression. However, rather than being oppressed, Thomas Hardy sought to conceal his sexual themes in a clever manner. The novel contained several different tones such as the philosophical ones, which were distanced from the action. In certain scenes, the narrator had the privilege of assessing different characters without getting involved with them on an emotional level. By attempting to answer the questions as to whether there were any true romantic relationships in the story, whether Hardy held a positive or negative view of human nature and the importance of Egdon Heath can we truly understand the context and intention behind the author’s work.




Work Cited

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Hardy, T. (1990). Return of the native. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg.

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