The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 5, Chapters 1–2 : The Discovery | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: "Wherefore Is Light Given to Him That Is in Misery"

Shattered by his mother's death, Clym lies ill in the house at Alderworth for several weeks. Neither Eustacia nor Thomasin can console him. Eustacia writhes in guilt and shame while her husband reproaches himself for failing to reconcile with his mother. Wildeve comes to drive home with his wife, who is soon expecting a child. Before Thomasin comes out, Wildeve advises Eustacia never to tell the whole truth about what happened. In particular, she should conceal that Wildeve was in the house at the time.

Chapter 2: A Lurid Light Breaks In upon a Darkened Understanding

It is now October. Clym's grief gives way to renewed strength and energy. Christian Cantle arrives to announce the birth of a baby girl to Thomasin and Wildeve. Clym questions Christian about the day of Mrs. Yeobright's attempted visit. Acting on Christian's information, Clym has him seek out Diggory, who had met with Mrs. Yeobright the day before her death. Meeting a few days later at Blooms-End, Diggory tells Clym that his mother had forgiven him and that she planned to visit him to reconcile.

How can this news be squared with the remarks that Johnny Nunsuch repeated at the time, however? The key facts are provided on the next day by Johnny, whom Clym seeks out for more information. He reveals that Mrs. Yeobright was walking away from Clym's house, not toward it, as Clym had previously thought. He reports seeing another man arrive at the house just before Mrs. Yeobright. He also saw a woman's face appear at the window just as Mrs. Yeobright knocked at the door.

Clym has now put the information together and has made the discovery that gives Book 5 its title. He sets forth from Susan Nunsuch's house in a state of turmoil.

Analysis

Hardy uses several significant Biblical allusions in this section of the novel to intensify the drama. The title of Chapter 1, for example, refers to Job 3:20, in which Job, struck down by misfortune, wonders in his misery why his life should even continue. Later in Chapter 1 Hardy emphasizes Eustacia's sense of guilt, comparing her feelings to those of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus to his enemies.

Chapter 2 establishes an accelerating momentum in Clym's relentless interrogations of Christian Cantle, Diggory Venn, and Johnny Nunsuch. When he discovers what he takes to be the truth, his wrath is tremendous. Hardy compares him to the Greek tragic hero Oedipus. In Chapter 1 Eustacia was right to quote the saying, "Beware the fury of a patient man." (The quote is drawn from John Dryden's political poem "Absalom and Achitophel," published in 1681.)

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