The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 3, Chapters 5–6 : The Fascination | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5: Sharp Words Are Spoken, and a Crisis Ensues

At Blooms-End, Mrs. Yeobright returns from a visit to Thomasin and confronts Clym, having heard at the Quiet Woman of his engagement to Eustacia Vye. They argue on the issues of a return to Paris and his marriage to Eustacia. Their discussion grows so heated that Clym resolves to leave home.

It is now early summer, and on this sunny day Clym had planned to bring his mother and Eustacia together so they could be friends. In a bitter irony of situation, his project has utterly failed. Clym meets with Eustacia and tells her that they must do their best to be married as soon as possible, after which they will occupy a tiny cottage on the heath until Clym manages to rent a house in the town of Budmouth (an imagined Wessex town, corresponding to Weymouth in Hardy's native Dorset county). Eustacia somewhat reluctantly agrees, provided that their stay in the small cottage will not exceed six months.

Chapter 6: Yeobright Goes, and the Breach Is Complete

Clym makes a final parting from his mother, who is unyielding in her stern severity. She even refuses to be consoled by a visit from the gentle Thomasin, who visits her daily for the next week. During her first visit Thomasin reports that Wildeve treats her "fairly," but she lacks money. Having asked her husband for money previously and been put off, she is reluctant to ask again.

Meanwhile, the news of Clym and Eustacia's relationship rekindles desire for Eustacia in the heart of Damon Wildeve, Thomasin's husband. Hardy attributes Wildeve's emotional affliction to his nature. His propensity "to care for the remote, to dislike the near" shows "the true mark of a man of sentiment."

Analysis

At this point Clym's thoughts about Eustacia Vye are unsettled and changeable. Just as at the end of Chapter 4, Clym experiences second thoughts after persuading Eustacia to agree to a hasty marriage. At the end of Chapter 5 Hardy says, "Eustacia was now no longer the goddess but the woman to him, a being to fight for, support, help, be maligned for." Significantly, Eustacia is portrayed as haggling over the terms of marriage. She specifies that their stay in a tiny cottage should not exceed six months. Similarly, in Chapter 4 she proposes that living in Paris be a condition of marriage. The reader is left with the impression that material comforts mean a great deal to her. In contrast, such comforts mean little to Clym.

Thomasin's visit to Mrs. Yeobright in Chapter 6, although ineffective, exhibits a delightful facet of Hardy's style when he compares her to birds. Her gentleness and grace pointedly contrast with the ominous account of Damon Wildeve at the end of the chapter. Wildeve is said to experience "a curious heartache": "the old longing for Eustacia had reappeared in his soul." In referring to him as "the Rousseau of Egdon," Hardy alludes to the Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78). Rousseau's unconventional, nonconformist, and idealistic doctrines were hailed by many as the epitome of Romanticism and as a significant incitement of the French Revolution (1787–99).

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