The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 4, Chapters 7–8 : The Closed Door | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7: The Tragic Meeting of Two Old Friends

At his small cottage, Clym awakens from his slumber and tells Eustacia about his dream. Eustacia says nothing about his mother's attempted visit earlier in the day. Clym decides he must go to Blooms-End at once. Eustacia, thinking she might be able to undo any damage done, petitions to go herself the next day, but she is overruled.

On his journey across the heath, Clym discovers his mother lying exhausted and almost unconscious. Raising her up onto his shoulders, he carries her to the shelter of a lonely shed. Then he summons the heath people, who bring lanterns, water, and other supplies.

It is discovered that Mrs. Yeobright has been bitten by an adder, a small poisonous snake. The heath people hasten to apply the traditional remedy: rubbing the bite with the fried fat of other adders. Clym, though distrustful, reluctantly agrees.

Chapter 8: Eustacia Hears of Good Fortune, and Beholds Evil

Eustacia impatiently wrestles with the dilemma posed by the nearly simultaneous arrivals in Chapter 6 of Wildeve and Mrs. Yeobright. Not able to sit still, she decides to walk toward Blooms-End and meet her husband on his return. As she is leaving, she meets Captain Vye, her grandfather, who informs her of the latest gossip: Wildeve has unexpectedly inherited a large sum of money from a relative in Canada. Captivated by new prospects, Eustacia hastens forth on her intended path to meet her husband. She stops for a while, and Wildeve appears. She discusses with him his plans for the use of his new inheritance.

Walking on the heath, the two approach the small turf-shed where Mrs. Yeobright lies dying. They arrive in time to hear the heath women weeping as the doctor pronounces, "It is all over." Johnny Nunsuch steps forward to repeat to his mother Mrs. Yeobright's lament that she was a "broken-hearted woman ... cast off by her son." Appalled and severely frightened, Eustacia parts company with Wildeve and hastens home.

Analysis

At the beginning of Chapter 7, Clym's account of his dream is intensely relevant in the context of recent events. He tells Eustacia that in the dream he took her to Mrs. Yeobright's house for a reconciliation. When they arrived, they were unable to gain entrance, despite his mother's continual cries for help. More than 20 years before Sigmund Freud published his Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, Hardy's psychological insight into the relationship between dreams and waking reality is striking.

Eustacia deals with her feelings of regret and fear by postponing any statement to Clym about what actually happened at the cottage. Meanwhile, Clym sets out on a mission to find and conciliate his mother.

Although the ensuing scenes are replete with emotion, readers cannot overlook the symbolism of Mrs. Yeobright's death through an adder's poison. Her intolerance and snobbery have amounted to poison in her relationships with other people, including Eustacia and her son. She has been notably severe even with her mild-mannered niece Thomasin.

Damon Wildeve's unexpected enrichment as the result of a family legacy adds a new twist to the narrative in Chapter 8. Eustacia's reaction is breathtakingly self-centered: "O I see it, I see it! How much he wishes he had me now, that he might give me all I desire!" The ensuing conversation between them is significantly more restrained. Wildeve tells her that he may journey to Paris, a city he names as "the central beauty-spot of the world." Eustacia can only murmur "in a voice that was nearly a sigh."

The book's final blow is the repetition by Johnny Nunsuch of Mrs. Yeobright's words, saying she was "a broken-hearted woman and cast off by her son." Eustacia hears the boy's report and immediately recognizes that she is to blame. Rather than going to Clym and consoling him, however, she skulks away from the scene.

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