The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 3, Chapters 1–2 : The Fascination | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is"

In this chapter Hardy expands the point of view, stepping back to consider Clym Yeobright's local reputation. At their regular Sunday-morning meeting for hair-cutting, presided over by Timothy Fairway, the locals trade gossip on the matter. Clym appears and tells his neighbors that he plans to open a school near Egdon. Though they are impressed by his achievements, the heath people are at a loss to understand his intention. In addition, they scarcely believe Clym's assertion that the diamond business is idle and vain.

Chapter 2: The New Course Causes Disappointment

In this chapter Clym shares his plans for the future with his mother. Predictably, Mrs. Yeobright is less than pleased. Mother and son argue over the nature of success and fulfillment. Soon Christian Cantle arrives, followed by Humphrey, to report an ugly incident that has happened in the church. Susan Nunsuch, convinced Eustacia is a witch, has stabbed her with a long stocking-needle. Clym seizes on the incident as a perfect example of the need for education to combat local ignorance and superstition.

Later that day Sam visits to borrow a rope. He informs the family that several of the men are going to Captain Vye's house to retrieve a bucket that has fallen into a well. Clym takes the opportunity to ask about the Captain's granddaughter. Curious about whether Miss Vye is the Turkish Knight he met at Christmas, Clym says he may join them their mission.

Analysis

Hardy's title for Chapter 1 comes from a lyric by the Elizabethan poet Sir Edward Dyer (1543–1607) on the theme of otium, a Latin word for leisurely contentment. It presumably suggests Clym's goal of a contented mind in his prospective career as a schoolteacher.

In this part of the novel Hardy devotes significant attention to Clym's decision to abandon his career in Paris and become a schoolteacher on the heath. The heath people react with incredulity and Mrs. Yeobright with disapproval. Clym's decision, then, is the cause of a rising tide of conflict. As stubborn as his mother, Clym does not seem to perceive how such a course may clash with the hopes and dreams of others. Eustacia's negative reaction may already be inferred; her snobbery and ambition would ensure her firm opposition to Clym's course.

At the beginning of Chapter 2 Hardy compares Clym in his zeal and idealism to "a John the Baptist who took ennoblement rather than repentance for his text." In contrast to Eustacia, he knows the heath intimately and loves its landscapes. (Later on, in Chapter 4, Eustacia calls the heath a "cruel taskmaster.")

It is at this point that Clym's contact with, and affection for, Eustacia begin to develop. Hardy has already foreshadowed a stormy relationship in his portrayal of the two characters' attitudes about Paris and the heath. Now he adds an even more telling anecdote recounting Susan Nunsuch's bizarre attack on Eustacia in church. Mrs. Yeobright, predictably, is judgmental. Observing her son's interest, she remarks drily, "Miss Vye is to my mind too idle to be charming. ... Good girls don't get treated as witches even on Egdon." Toward the end of Chapter 2 Clym naively asks Sam if he thinks Eustacia would like to teach children. Hardy implies Clym is already pondering a romantic interest.

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