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The Return of the Native | Quotes

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1.

As with some persons who have long lived apart, solitude seemed to look out of its countenance. It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 1

Hardy's description of Egdon Heath in the novel's opening chapter is justly celebrated for its evocation of a solemn, almost hostile atmosphere. His chapter title, referring to the heath, is "A Face on Which Time Makes But Little Impression." The heath is the setting for the entire novel, and some critics are so impressed by its ubiquity that they have elevated it to the status of a character.

2.

Instead of turning in the direction of home he pressed on rapidly by a path under Rainbarrow towards what was evidently a signal light.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 5

The character spoken of here is Damon Wildeve, the glib and charming lady-killer whose affections vacillate between Thomasin Yeobright and Eustacia Vye. Unreliable and hypocritical, Damon hastens in this passage to respond to a fire lit by Eustacia as a signal for a meeting. A number of similar scenes recur through the novel.

3.

Eustacia Vye was the raw material of a divinity.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 7

This chapter-opening sentence inaugurates Hardy's lengthy description of Eustacia Vye, the novel's heroine. A bewitching mixture of beauty, ego, vulnerability, indecision, pride, and ambition, Eustacia is the driving force of the novel's plot.

4.

To be loved to madness—such was her great desire.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 7

Eustacia may fairly be described as a narcissist. She is considerably better educated than the heath people, but she cherishes notably immature notions about love and marriage. She is also a person of low self-esteem, despite her occasional fits of arrogance and pride.

5.

[G]ood-nature, and an acuteness as extreme as it could be without verging on craft, formed the frame-work of his character.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 9

Here Hardy comments on the character of Diggory Venn, the reddleman. This kindly, gentle, and practical man is marginalized by many characters in the book. His appearance—caused by his trade of dealing with red ochre, a substance used by shepherds—seems bizarre. Yet Diggory is honest, upright, and honorable.

6.

It was as if the night sang dirges with clenched teeth.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 9

This brief sentence with its striking, ominous use of personification exemplifies Hardy's ability to create evocative settings through figurative language. The passage occurs during a tense discussion between Eustacia Vye and Damon Wildeve.

7.

Often a drop of irony into an indifferent situation renders the whole piquant.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 10

No one knew the power of irony better than Hardy, and The Return of the Native features the device on a number of levels, ranging from the piquant to the tragic. In Hardy's fiction, irony often results from chance, coincidence, or misunderstanding.

8.

"And then," said Diggory sadly, "I came away, for her history as Tamsin Yeobright was over."


Diggory Venn, Book 2, Chapter 8

Diggory's plainspoken matter-of-factness here in telling Mrs. Yeobright his account of Thomasin's wedding disguises intense sorrow and disappointment, for he had wanted to marry Thomasin and had been rejected by her, with the approval of her aunt, since Mrs. Yeobright had regarded Diggory as socially undesirable.

9.

"What curious creatures these dice be—powerful rulers of us all, and yet at my command!"


Christian Cantle, Book 3, Chapter 7

Christian Cantle's simple comment at the gambling match with Wildeve conveys more than Christian knows. His sentiment resonates with Hardy's view of human life being at the mercy of chance and coincidence. Meanwhile humans preserve the illusion that they are in control of their own destiny.

10.

"I have seen your mother; and I will never see her again!"


Eustacia Vye, Book 4, Chapter 2

This outburst by Eustacia Vye to Clym Yeobright encapsulates the young woman's anger and frustration. It follows a violent argument between Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright. In context, the exclamation proves dramatically ironic. Although she does not know it, Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright will never, in fact, meet again.

11.

To Eustacia the situation seemed such a mockery of her hopes that death appeared the only door of relief if the satire of Heaven should go much further.


Narrator, Book 4, Chapter 3

The passage occurs as Eustacia discusses whether to attend the gypsying dance at East Egdon without her husband. In the phrase "the satire of Heaven," Hardy hints at the outlook that human life unfolds in a hostile universe. In the words "death appeared the only door of relief," he foreshadows Eustacia's suicide.

12.

"If you had never returned to your native place, Clym, what a blessing it would have been for you! ... It has altered the destinies of —"


Eustacia Vye, Book 4, Chapter 4

To this statement of Eustacia's, Clym replies, "Three people," at which Eustacia thinks, "Five." Clym's "three people" are himself, herself, and his mother. However, Eustacia also includes Thomasin Yeobright, Clym's cousin, and her husband, the wayward Damon Wildeve, who used to be Eustacia's lover and seems to want to regain that position.

13.

"Tell her you have seen a broken-hearted woman cast off by her son."


Mrs. Yeobright, Book 4, Chapter 6

Mrs. Yeobright's desperate words to the boy Johnny Nunsuch as she struggles to return over the heath have their roots in a tragic misunderstanding. When she was at Clym's cottage, no one opened the door for her because Eustacia was afraid (Damon Wildeve was in the house) and (2) Clym was asleep. Mrs. Yeobright drew the conclusion that her son was spurning her. Her words here will also have momentous implications further on in the story, since Johnny Nunsuch repeats them to Clym when he interrogates the boy.

14.

Never was harmony more perfect than that between the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the world without.


Narrator, Book 5, Chapter 7

Eustacia is on the verge of suicide. Hardy sets the event on a violently stormy night, using the pathetic fallacy, a device in which the face of nature mirrors the emotions within the human characters. In context the word harmony demonstrates an intense case of verbal irony. Eustacia's mind seethes with conflict and despair, while nature itself is the scene of a violent storm.

15.

"They are not desperate. They are only hopeless; and my great regret as that for what I have done no man or law can punish me!"


Clym Yeobright, Book 5, Chapter 9

Clym says this in response to Diggory Venn's question, "Why should you say such desperate things?"

At the novel's original ending (the culmination of Book 5), Clym seems overwhelmed by guilt. Brushing aside Diggory Venn's words of consolation, Clym regards the death of his mother and the suicide of Eustacia as his own fault.

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