The Return of the Native | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Return of the Native | Book 6, Chapters 3–4 : Aftercourses | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3: The Serious Discourse of Clym and His Cousin

Clym ponders with typical earnestness what his duty to Thomasin and her young child might be. He recalls that his mother favored a marriage between himself and Thomasin, yet he feels he is now only a shell of a man after Eustacia's death. An additional, complicating factor is his serious interest in training for a new career. Clym intends to become an itinerant preacher focused on the "eleventh commandment"—an allusion to Christ's exhortation to his followers to love one another.

In an unexpected irony of situation, however, Thomasin raises the subject of marriage before Clym does, saying she has now decided to marry Diggory. At first Clym reminds her of his mother's objection to the match, but after some thought Clym withdraws any objections. Soon after that a day is set for a wedding.

Chapter 4: Cheerfulness Again Asserts Itself at Blooms-End, and Clym Finds His Vocation

The day of Diggory and Thomasin's wedding is the occasion for a merry gathering of the heath people, who stuff a mattress with feathers as a gift to the bridal couple.

Clym presents young Charley with a bittersweet memento of Eustacia: a lock of her hair. Then, on the Sunday after the wedding, he delivers a sermon on Rainbarrow to local men and women of the heath.

Analysis

Readers who admirer Thomasin must be grateful that Clym finally exhibits some good sense on the issue of her marriage. In particular, he agrees with Thomasin that Mrs. Yeobright objected to Diggory primarily because he was a reddleman, which he no longer is.

In the novel's final chapter, Hardy includes two significant echoes of the early scenes in Book 1. Perhaps his intent is to lend a pleasing sort of unity for the whole narrative. The first is a wedding song for the newly married couple. The second is the delivery of Clym's first discourse on Rainbarrow, the location where we were first introduced to Eustacia. Hardy is noncommittal on how effective Clym's preaching was, saying only that "some people believed him, and some believed not." But he does affirm that the story of Clym's life, which had become "generally known," afforded him a kind reception.

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