The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 2, Chapters 5–6 : The Arrival | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5: Through the Moonlight

On the night of the mummers' first performance, Eustacia poses as her cousin, replacing Charley in the role of the Turkish Knight in the play. Making their way to Blooms-End, the amateur actors enact the play. Some of them, however, recognize Eustacia, but she binds them to secrecy.

Chapter 6: The Two Stand Face to Face

Identifying Clym among the spectators, Eustacia scrutinizes his face, which Hardy describes at length as a visage expressing inner conflict and turmoil. After the arrival of more guests from the heath and some bantering dialogue among them, Clym offers Eustacia some food, which she refuses. But she does take some elderwine, of which she can partake without removing her disguise. The sight of Thomasin ignites her jealousy, as she ponders how to prevent any renewed bond between Thomasin and Clym. Toward the end of the chapter Eustacia ventures outside the house and is followed by Clym. At their first face-to-face meeting, they briefly discuss her disguise—he has recognized her femininity. Eustacia declines Clym's invitation to return to the party indoors and begins to make her way home. On her journey she reflects on the possible threat Thomasin poses to her romantic designs on Clym. She also recalls that she was to have met Wildeve that very evening to discuss their possible elopement. She cavalierly dismisses any concern for Wildeve, regretting only that she had stood in the way of his wedding to Thomasin. Had they been married already, it would have removed Thomasin as her potential rival for Clym's affections.

Analysis

Two important thematic strands in these chapters are the notion of heroism and the idea of disguise versus revelation. Heroism seems prized as an ideal by Eustacia, but she appears to define this quality narrowly and in conformity to traditional stereotypes. Perhaps the St. George play and her remarkable dream described in Chapter 3 together support her conception of a "knightly" rescuer. She imagines her hero will transform her constricted life on Egdon Heath into a glamorous existence in a place like Paris. For Eustacia at this point, this knightly figure is Clym Yeobright.

Disguise is also a prominent motif in these chapters. Eustacia is recognized by some of her fellow mummers in Chapter 5, but she entreats them not to reveal her identity. In Chapter 6 this pact proves vain, however, when Clym astutely recognizes her as a woman. In an awkward encounter, Eustacia is thrown on the defensive. Departing from Blooms-End prematurely, Eustacia has conflicting feelings about her adventure. "How could she," she wonders, "allow herself to become so infatuated with a stranger?" At the same time the thought of Thomasin's "inflammable proximity" to Clym is galling. Eustacia plainly fears being bested by Clym's cousin.

Eustacia's adventure, then, has had mixed results, at best. As she regrets her failure to make certain of Wildeve's marriage to Thomasin, she again reveals an almost unnaturally competitive mentality about marriage. The name "Vye" is clearly appropriate, as the verb vie means "to compete" or "contest." Eustacia is, if anything, a fierce contestant in the marriage game. Other speaking names in the novel include Wildeve, suggesting irresponsible abandon, and Clym, short for Clement, suggesting mercy or charity. Before Hardy, Charles Dickens had made effective use of speaking names, such as Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities (1859).
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