The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 1, Chapters 9–11 : The Three Women | Summary



Chapter 9: Love Leads a Shrewd Man into Strategy

In this chapter Hardy provides some background on the strange, perhaps unfamiliar history of reddlemen, touching on the mistaken beliefs linking them with gypsies and criminals. Testifying to the good nature and integrity of Diggory Venn, he recounts how Thomasin rejected Venn as a suitor. Generous even in rejection, Venn takes it upon himself to look after Thomasin's interests by monitoring and eavesdropping on the secretive trysts between Wildeve and Eustacia. He listens in as Wildeve consults Eustacia about his marrying Thomasin and then asks Eustacia to elope to America. She deflects, asking for time to consider. Diggory is so troubled by what he overhears that he resolves to call on Eustacia.

Chapter 10: A Desperate Attempt at Persuasion

During his visit to Eustacia, Diggory Venn attempts to persuade her to give up her relationship with Wildeve, asserting that it is the source of domestic trouble and unhappiness. Eustacia stubbornly refuses to agree, saying she will never give up Wildeve. Arrogantly declaring that Thomasin is "an inferior woman," Eustacia asserts her prior rights to Wildeve's affections. She dismisses Diggory in an imperious manner, and he withdraws despondently.

Chapter 11: The Dishonesty of an Honest Woman

Thomasin's marriage still lies in the balance. Feeling, perhaps, that he has little to lose, Diggory Venn now presents himself to Mrs. Yeobright, asking to be reconsidered as a suitor for Thomasin's hand. Mrs. Yeobright is unenthusiastic. She takes Venn's offer seriously enough, however, to use it to put pressure on Wildeve by telling him that another suitor is interested in Thomasin. Wildeve attempts to turn the situation to his own advantage and then pleads for more time to make his decision.

Wildeve then arranges a meeting with Eustacia and attempts to pressure her into a decision regarding eloping to America. But he is met with the same strategy: Eustacia says she is not ready to make up her mind. The two taunt each other. Privately, Eustacia decides that Wildeve is now "a superfluity": "to perceive his mediocrity now was to admit her own great folly heretofore." Wildeve's failure to get a woman "inferior to herself" is proof enough to Eustacia of his lack of value.

When Eustacia's grandfather returns home, he informs her of the "Egdon news": young Clym Yeobright will be returning home from Paris soon to spend Christmas with his mother.


Hardy's presentation of the jockeying for position in these chapters between Diggory Venn, Mrs. Yeobright, Damon Wildeve, and Eustacia Vye casts a lurid glow on the author's view of marriage. With the exception of Venn, the characters are motivated by social status, snobbery, and pride. Mrs. Yeobright rejects Venn because she deems him socially unworthy. She pressures Wildeve in order to avoid social stigma. Wildeve, meanwhile, exploits the situation with the Yeobrights in order to pin Eustacia down. In an irony of situation, however, Eustacia inwardly spurns Wildeve because he has failed, in her eyes, to secure a match with Thomasin, whom Eustacia regards as her social inferior. Love and affection scarcely enter the picture.

As often with the conclusion of a major section of this work, the news of Clym's impending arrival provides suspense. The reader is left to wonder how the arrival of a new character will affect the fortunes of Eustacia, Mrs. Yeobright, Thomasin, Wildeve, and Diggory Venn.

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