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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Chapters 3-4

Summary

Clym goes to Captain Vye's house on the pretense of helping with the fallen bucket. In truth, he wishes to meet Eustacia, who comes to the well when she sees him. Helping him get water from the well, Eustacia injures herself. She converses with Clym, but she refuses to admit that she was the young woman disguised as the mummer at his mother's party.

Mrs. Yeobright is displeased that Clym has met Eustacia; she grows more displeased as Clym begins to meet Eustacia regularly. She openly shows her bitter resentment to her son and blames Eustacia for his decision to stay on the heath and become a schoolteacher.

A lunar eclipse occurs and serves as a signal for the rendezvous between Clym and Eustacia. He decides to end his mother's intolerable criticism of Eustacia once and for all and asks her to marry him. She refuses to give a definite answer, speaking instead of her dislike of Egdon Heath and her craving to escape. Later she agrees to marry Clym and hopes that his better sense will prevail and he will return to Paris after all.


Notes

Eustacia is not a passive kind of woman waiting for things to happen or for fate to intervene; instead she instigates events. In an earlier chapter, she dresses as a mummer so she can observe Clym closely and not be noticed; the second time she encounters him she has made certain that she is present at the well with him. She enters into conversation with Clym and drops broad hints about how much she longs to leave the heath.

There is irony in the fact that Clym has returned to Egdon sated by life in Paris; he now desires to settle down on the heath, which Eustacia longs to leave. In fact, it is Clym's association with Paris that makes him so attractive to Eustacia. From the beginning of their relationship, strong differences are depicted between them that foreshadow trouble. More than anything, Eustacia wishes to return to Paris with him, and he wishes to make of her "a good matron in a boarding school." Though Clym has sensed that Eustacia's love for him is colored with the hope that he will return to Paris, he hopes that he will be able to change her mind. Clym, in reality, is pulled in three directions. He must satisfy "his mother's trust in him, his plan for becoming a teacher, and Eustacia's happiness." In the course of the novel, he will find it impossible to satisfy all three.

It is important to notice that Clym's proposal to Eustacia takes place on Rainbarrow, where she has previously met with Wildeve. Since a lunar eclipse is taking place, it is a particularly dark night, symbolic of the dark and stormy relationship that is destined to develop between these two very opposite personalities. When Clym observes the moon before Eustacia arrives, he imagines it as a world without personal ambition, a quiet, solitary place where he would like to be. As Eustacia enters, the moon is just going into eclipse. The night grows darker as they talk about their plans and desires. When Eustacia agrees to marry Clym, it is almost totally dark with the moon near full eclipse, as if the world disapproves of this mis-matched relationship. Eustacia also notices the moon and sees her own dreams in it. She says to her fiancé, "Clym, the eclipsed moonlight shines upon your face with a strange foreign color....that means you should be doing better things." She is clearly hinting that Clym should leave the heath and his desire to be a schoolteacher behind. Eustacia will not be happy with Clym until this happens; unfortunately, Clym's happiness is tied to the heath. Ironically, Mrs. Yeobright is correct when she says that Eustacia is not the right woman for her son; her reasons are just not correct.

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