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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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Chapter 9

Summary

The light that Thomasin sees when Venn is escorting her back home is the light of the gig that Wildeve has kept ready for Eustacia's flight. Clym, while searching for his wife, finds Wildeve nearby. Just as they recognize each other, they hear the noise of a body falling into the stream adjoining Shadwater Weir. Feeling sure that Eustacia has fallen or jumped into the water, both men rush to her aid. In typical manner, Clym tries to discover the safest way into the water, but Wildeve plunges in, coat and all. At that instant, Venn and Thomasin reach the Shadwater Weir. Venn sends her off to the inn to safeguard the baby and to get help. Venn jumps in and tries to rescue both men. Only Clym is saved. With the assistance of two men who have come to help, Venn retrieves Eustacia's body.

The bodies of Wildeve and Eustacia and the unconscious Clym are taken to the inn. Charley, sent by Captain Vye to inquire about Eustacia, arrives at the Quiet Lady. He is stunned and speechless when he hears the news about the deaths. Clym revives and takes Venn and Charley upstairs to see the bodies, both of whom look peaceful after their stormy lives and violent deaths. Clym sadly remarks that Eustacia is the second woman he has killed, the first being his mother.


Notes

This chapter, like the entire book, is filled with irony. Thomasin has felt that her husband is planning to run away with Eustacia, and as she returns toward her home, she spies the light of Wildeve's gig that is waiting to take Eustacia away. It is ironic that in her final moments of despair, Eustacia feels that neither her husband nor Wildeve is worthy of her. It is ironic that she kills herself on the heath, from which she wants to escape, just at the moment that Wildeve is coming to take her away. Now her body will lie forever upon the heath. It is further ironic that though both Clym and Wildeve try to save Eustacia, her lover seems more concerned about her than her husband. Clym is cautious about his own life and Wildeve wildly plunges into the water. It is also ironic that Wildeve is trying to save Eustacia by taking her off the heath when she throws herself into the water; then he must try and save her again, only to lose her and his own life. Finally, the omnipresent Venn manages to save Clym and retrieve the bodies.

Clym wallows in grief and self-pity, sinking again into the quagmire of remorse and guilt. He does not feel that fate is responsible for his lot in life, but that it is his own doing that renders his life wretched. He truly sees himself as a killer -- of both his mother and his wife.

It is symbolic that Eustacia dies in water, which is normally seen in terms of cleansing and salvation. Unfortunately, Eustacia, in the end, sees death as her only salvation, her permanent escape from the heath and the misery of life.

In truth, the novel truly ends at this point; the action is complete. Mrs. Yeobright, Wildeve, and Eustacia are dead; Thomasin is a widow with only a child to love, and Clym is a widower with nothing. Life is truly cruel for humankind; only the heath remains untouched and unchanged.

It is important to note that Hardy originally felt that Book Five ended the novel. However, since the book appeared in serial form, he was pressed by his readers to give further resolution to the story. As a result, the sixth book was added.

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