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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Chapters 4-5

Summary

Mrs. Yeobright meets the reddleman, Diggory Venn, outside the Quiet Woman Inn. He tells her that Thomasin is in his van. When she finds her niece, Mrs. Yeobright learns that Thomasin's marriage has not taken place. Mrs. Yeobright takes Thomasin and goes into the inn to confront Wildeve and find out what has happened to the wedding plans. The aunt is not satisfied with Wildeve's explanation, but he privately maintains to Thomasin that he still intends to marry her.

The group of heath people from Rainbarrow arrives, putting an effective end to the conversation of Mrs. Yeobright, Thomasin, and Wildeve. They have come to greet and serenade the newlyweds. Irritated, but tolerating their rambling attempts at singing and talking, Wildeve treats them to a drink of mead (beer). The group departs in high spirits. By the time they leave, Wildeve discovers that Thomasin and her aunt have left. Wildeve sees the bonfire lit by Eustacia and believes it is a signal for him. He immediately starts off towards Mistover Knap.


Notes

Mrs. Yeobright proves herself to be a noble-hearted woman with "great strength of character," who is unafraid to speak her mind. When she learns that Wildeve has not married her niece, she goes into the inn to demand an explanation of the wily Wildeve. Originally not in favor of the marriage to the extent that she had publicly disapproved of it in church, now that she has become resigned to it, she is quite indignant about the fact that her young niece has been held up at the altar. She has no hesitation about speaking her mind.

Although not much detail is given about Wildeve, Hardy presents him in a negative light in these chapters. In the beginning, Mrs. Yeobright was opposed to her niece marrying him, probably for good reason. Now, he has not carried through with the wedding and does not give an adequate explanation as to why. Although he privately tells Thomasin that he still plans to marry her, he has created questions in the reader's mind about his sincerity and his character. At the end of chapter 5, he is seen hurrying to see Eustacia Vye, which sheds more negative light on his actions.

Another interesting character is the reddleman, Diggory Venn. He is by profession an itinerant seller of reddle, red chalk used to brand or mark sheep. He always happens to be at the right place, at the right time, whether it is to deliver Thomasin safely to her aunt when required or to gamble and win back what he considers Thomasin's inheritance. Whatever his real motives are, he is usually around to lend a helping hand.

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