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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Chapters 7-8

Summary

On the next evening, November 6, Eustacia comes to a decision and signals Wildeve that she is ready to leave. At ten o'clock, Fairway delivers the letter from Clym into the hands of Captain Vye. When he attempts to deliver it to his granddaughter, he finds her room dark and supposes she is asleep. In truth, she has already left to meet Wildeve. Fate, therefore, keeps Eustacia from receiving her husband's letter asking her to return.

It is pouring rain when Eustacia leaves the house and reaches the top of Rainbarrow. Remembering that she has no money and wondering whether Wildeve is worthy of being her lover again, she grows despondent. Susan Nunsuch sees Eustacia walking by her cottage on the way to Rainbarrow. Just as she passes, Johnny complains of feeling poorly, and Susan is convinced more than ever that Eustacia is a witch. Susan makes an effigy of Eustacia out of beeswax, sticks it with pins, and burns it.

Clym, assuming that his wife has read the letter, waits and watches for Eustacia's arrival and feels disappointed when Thomasin calls. She tells Clym that she believes Wildeve is going to elope with Eustacia. The captain then calls, informing them of Eustacia's interest in his pistols and of her departure from his house. Clym and Vye depart together, and Thomasin leaves with her baby. She meets Venn, who once again has been at the right place at the right time. He tells Thomasin that he has seen another woman on the heath that night. He takes her to a light shining near the inn. It is the gig-lamp.


Notes

The description of the storm at the time when Eustacia leaves is magnificent. Every facet of the wind and the rain seems to have become symbolic of the storm within Eustacia: "Never was harmony more perfect than that between the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the world without." The very face of the heath has changed for her on this night. Eustacia, who has never liked her surrounding, now finds the heath totally repugnant. Walking towards Rainbarrow, she stumbles "over twisted furze-roots, tufts of rushes, or oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this season lay scattered about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal." The imagery reflects the hatred Eustacia has for this native land.

Christian Cantle is the male symbol of superstition among the heath folk, and Susan Nonesuch is his female counterpart. She thinks that Eustacia is a witch. On this terrible night, she sees "the witch" walking past at just the time her son says he feels bad. Now she is certain of Eustacia's identity and determines to do something about it. Her unshakable belief in superstition can be seen in her determination while making the effigy and the thoroughness with which she ascertains that it has burned completely. All the while, she is muttering the Lord's prayer backwards. Ironically, as the effigy is being destroyed, Eustacia is in the process of destroying herself. She openly expresses the bitterness of her fate: "I have been injured and blighted and crushed by things beyond my control! O, how hard it is of Heaven to devise such tortures for me, who have done no harm to heaven at all."

It is important to note that this is the last time Eustacia is seen alive in the book. It is significant that her last appearance is on the Rainbarrow, for the first time she appeared she was also on Rainbarrow.

Throughout the novel, Hardy has used repetition to give symmetry to his plot. The book begins on November 5 and ends on approximately the same date, one year later. The novel begins with Eustacia meeting Wildeve on the heath, after he sees the signal of her bonfire. It ends with Eustacia planning to meet Wildeve again on the heath, after signaling him.

It is also important to note the timing of the letter sent from Clym. If he had written and sent the letter sooner, he perhaps could have saved Eustacia from her fate, just as he could have prevented his mother's death if he had reconciled with her sooner. The irony is that the letter might have stopped Eustacia in her mad rush to destroy herself; the problem is that it arrives shortly after her departure. Once again, Hardy shows the cruelty and indifference of fate in a hostile world.

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