The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 5, Chapters 3–4 : The Discovery | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3: Eustacia Dresses Herself on a Black Morning

The showdown between Clym and Eustacia unfolds with Clym in a towering rage. Clym moderates his violence to a degree by smashing a desk, but he does not strike his wife. With a touch of foreshadowing, Eustacia says bitterly, "I almost wish you would kill me." When Clym demands to know if the man with her in the house that day was Wildeve, she refuses to answer. However, Eustacia does tell her side of how the door was not opened for Mrs. Yeobright. The two argue over who will leave first to establish a separation. Eustacia flings on her shawl and angrily departs. In a darkly ironic situation at the end of the chapter, a servant arrives to announce that Thomasin and Wildeve's new baby girl has been named Eustacia Clementine. Clym decries the mockery in a name that "perpetuates" his unhappy marriage.

Chapter 4: The Ministrations of a Half-Forgotten One

Eustacia, at her wit's end, travels to her grandfather's house to find that he is away at Weatherbury and will not return home until evening. In a poignant scene, she renews her acquaintance with Charley, the teenage servant lad who had arranged for her to take his part in the mummers' play the previous Christmas. Eustacia notices the set of pistols belonging to her grandfather and considers them, then withdraws, seeking courage. When she returns, the weapons have been removed from their usual place on the wall, and she asks Charley about them. He has removed and hidden them, he admits, because he is concerned about Eustacia's state of mind. She argues with him briefly, asking "Why should I not die if I wish?" Eventually she regains some calm and assures him that the danger has passed. When her grandfather returns, Eustacia tell him she will want to stay at his house.

Analysis

In Chapter 3, Clym and Eustacia's lengthy, rhetorical speeches of accusation are full of exaggeration, distortion, and self-pity, as might be expected considering the situation. Still, it is notable that these words are consistent with the earlier hints that these two characters ought never to have married in the first place, since they are so ill matched. Clym's speech of reproach resembles a sermon, perhaps foreshadowing his eventual choice of the ministry as a profession at the end of the novel. Eustacia's speech, which she refuses to label a defense, whiningly castigates Clym for deceiving her and installing her in a "hut like this," keeping her "like the wife of a hind [deer]."

The nail in the coffin for this wretched debate is the news that Thomasin's daughter will be named Eustacia Clementine. Clym comments that the name amounts to a "mockery."

Chapter 4 provides further evidence of Eustacia's suicidal state of mind, moving from mere thoughts and oblique comments to overt discussion. Her distress is so evident that even the inexperienced youth Charley is able to see her intent as she gazes at the pistols. In a move that would not today be recommended regarding suicidal cases, Charley says he will not reveal her intentions, provided that she doesn't think of it again. As readers learn later, Charley's well-intentioned moves against her suicide prove insufficient.

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