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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Chapters 5-6

Summary

On the hot thirty-first day of August, Mrs. Yeobright decides to go to Alderworth to attempt a reconciliation. Not being sure of the way, she wanders around on the heath longer than she should have. Finally she inquires about the way from a laborer and is told to follow a certain furze cutter, whom she can just see in the distance. She follows him, soon realizing that it is Clym. Before reaching Clym's house, Mrs. Yeobright stops to rest. From her resting place, she sees a man come to the house and be admitted by Eustacia. The caller is Wildeve, who Eustacia dares to admit since her husband is sound asleep on the floor. Eustacia and Wildeve discuss her marriage, and Wildeve hints that he still loves her.

Feeling stronger after the rest, Mrs. Yeobright continues her journey. She knocks on the door and sees Eustacia look out of a window at her. Eustacia panics over what to do. She rushes Wildeve out the back, assuming that Clym will hear the knock, awaken, and let his mother inside. On her return to the living room, Eustacia finds that Clym is still asleep, the door is still closed, and Mrs. Yeobright has vanished.

Clym's mother returns across the heath the way she has come. Knowing that her son was at home when she knocked and that Eustacia has seen her, Mrs. Yeobright feels that her daughter-in- law has turned her son against her. On the way she meets Johnny Nunsuch. He stays with her for awhile, but grows annoyed by her ramblings. He leaves and she sits down to rest.


Notes

Mrs. Yeobright wants to set things right with Clym and Eustacia. As a result, she sets out for Alderworth. While the mother follows her furze-cutting son, she plans "a dozen hasty schemes for him and Eustacia." Ironically, fate decides otherwise. Coincidentally, Wildeve arrives at the house before Mrs. Yeobright. Because of his presence and a false assumption on Eustacia's part, Mrs. Yeobright is not even permitted inside the house.

It is important to notice the implied contrasts surrounding Wildeve. This is the third meeting he has had with Eustacia, all three occurring after periods of absence. When the couple met on the heath in the First Book of the novel, Eustacia was very aware of Wildeve's shortcomings and turns him away. During their second meeting at the dance, she enjoys his company. During this third meeting, she notices the advantages of Wildeve over her husband. She looks at Clym sleeping soundly on the floor after a hard day in the field with his work clothes nearby. She compares her husband to Wildeve, "who is elegantly dressed in a new suit." Suddenly Eustacia judges that Wildeve is more suited for her than her sleeping husband, who is now nothing more than a laborer on the heath. In truth, neither man is what Eustacia really wants.

It is intentional that Mrs. Yeobright crosses the heath on the last day of August, typically one of the hottest days of the year. The scorching summer heat, and it effects on the plants and vegetables, is described in detail: "The sun had branded the whole heath with his mark . . . Every valley was filled with air like that of a kiln. . . the air around her pulsate[d] silently and oppresse[d] the earth with lassitude." It would be difficult to make a journey in such heat once, but round-trip without stopping, except for brief rests, is an ordeal. It's no wonder that Johnny Nunsuch looks at Mrs. Yeobright with wonder and fear and appropriately describes her like "a lamb when you drive him till he's nearly done for." Ironically, she is soon to become almost a sacrificial lamb.

When Mrs. Yeobright stops to rest at the end of the chapter, she notices the flight of a heron. Like the bird, she longs to be in a "free and happy place" and remarks, "I hope to have a long, long one [sleep]--very long." Her thoughts foreshadow her approaching death.

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