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MonkeyNotes-Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
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THEME

Hardy's whole novel is built upon the theme of the irony of fate. Just when Eustacia is extremely frustrated with her isolated existence on the heath, Clym returns from Paris. She romanticizes him and believes him to be her ticket out of the miserable heath. Fate has brought him back at an inopportune time. Fate also makes Mrs. Yeobright decide to reconcile with her son at an inopportune time. She arrives at her son's house just as Eustacia has admitted Wildeve into her home, for the very first time. As a result, Eustacia panics and denies entrance to her mother-in-law, believing that Clym will awaken and let her in. Fate has him sleeping so soundly that he does not hear her knock, and Mrs. Yeobright walks away with all of the wrong impressions. Fate also has her bitten by an adder on her return home. As a result, she dies and never hears the truth of the whole. In fact, Clym himself never hears the whole truth because fate has made Eustacia to proud to defend herself. Instead, she chooses to leave Clym and Alderworth. Fate causes Clym to hesitate in writing a letter of apology to her. As a result, Eustacia, feeling trapped and unloved, grows more and more despondent. She chooses to commit suicide and leaves Captain Vye's house, moments before the letter of apology from Clym is delivered. To end her life, she throws herself into water, a symbol usually used for cleansing and salvation; but her fate in the water is to be death. Fate has placed Wildeve and Clym close enough by the stream to hear Eustacia's splash. Both men dive in to save her from the cruel hands of fate, but neither is successful; in fact, fate grabs Wildeve in the process. Obviously, fate is in control in the novel, and it is always a tragic fate at work in an indifferent world.


Hardy asserted that "tragedy always underlies comedy." Egdon Heath, which forms the setting for the Return of the Native, is described as "a place perfectly accordant with man's nature . . . like man, slighted and enduring." The nature of existence is always discordant. One seems to be working contrary to destiny. One cannot modify the will of destiny. In spite of themselves, and their good intentions, the characters in the novel do not succeed in changing their sorrowful existences.

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