The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 2, Chapters 1–2 : The Arrival | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: Tidings of the Comer

Shortly before Christmas, Eustacia overhears Sam and Humphrey talking with her grandfather about Clym Yeobright's impending arrival home from Paris, where he is employed as the manager to a diamond merchant. Captain Vye moralistically declares that Clym should never have left home. He is suspicious of the "strange notions" imparted by modern education. He adds that it would be better for Eustacia if she had less "romantic nonsense" in her head. Humphrey and Sam, however, think Clym and Eustacia would make a fine couple. This prospect intrigues Eustacia, as she muses about Paris and its wonders. That evening she puts on her bonnet and strolls in a reverie to Blooms-End, the house to which Clym will soon return.

Chapter 2: The People at Blooms-End Make Ready

At Blooms-End Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright are occupied with preparations for Clym's arrival. Thomasin climbs into the loft of her aunt's fuel-house to select special apples known to be among Clym's favorite varieties. Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright exchange some remarks about the younger lady's current fortunes, with Mrs. Yeobright commenting that Thomasin could have avoided sorrow if she had been willing to be courted by her cousin Clym.

When the two proceed to gather holly boughs, Mrs. Yeobright raises the vexed subject of Damon Wildeve, whom Thomasin continues to defend. Thomasin is resolute in her decision to marry him, despite her aunt's hint that another man wishes to marry her. She earnestly persuades her aunt to say nothing to Clym on the subject. Mrs. Yeobright reasserts her pride and determination not to be "the sport of a man like Wildeve."

Analysis

At the end of Book 1 Captain Vye had scornfully characterized Paris to Eustacia as "that rookery of pomp and vanity." But in Book 2 Paris takes on a far different significance in Eustacia's mind as she overhears the conversation between Captain Vye and the heathmen. Paris itself—as a symbol of luxury and sophistication—supplies Eustacia with the romantic energy that she suddenly invests in a prospective relationship with Clym. She has never seen this particular native of the heath, and she has only a vague idea of his career in Paris. But his link with that glamorous metropolis—and the possible escape from Egdon Heath that the connection might offer her—suffice to trigger an infatuation. The picture is embellished by Humphrey's homespun observation that Eustacia and Clym might make "a very pretty pigeon-pair."

At the beginning of this fateful phase in her romantic fortunes, extremes are the order of the day for the 19-year-old Eustacia. For her, a "young and clever man" was arriving. "It was like a man coming from heaven." Furthermore, the speculations of the heathmen seem, to Eustacia at least, to foreordain the relationship of "a pair born for each other."

Contrasting with the tensely expectant atmosphere of Chapter 1, the next is a more centered kind of expectancy as the Yeobright women prepare for Clym's arrival in Chapter 2. Hardy includes here an idyllic description of the loft at Mrs. Yeobright's fuel-house as Thomasin busies herself gathering apples. However, the occasion's serenity and good cheer are buffeted somewhat by Mrs. Yeobright's habitual dissatisfaction. She is still anxious about Thomasin's position and the family's reputation as a result of the postponed marriage to Wildeve. Thomasin begins to assert her own mind, earnestly and firmly. She defends Wildeve, and she refuses to revisit old ground with discussion of a romance with Clym. For the first time, apparently, Mrs. Yeobright is compelled to assent to her niece's will.

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