Student Impression Papers on The Return of the Native (cont.)
Sadly I was not impressed with the final books of Return of the Native. Often I am confused why Hardy portrays who we hope to see as a strong and opulent character as nothing more then a weak minded and indecisive figure. As Clym replays the events that lead to Ms. Yeobright’s death he chooses to turn another cheek rather then acknowledge or accept and therefore punish the guilty party. Furthermore, Clym was well aware of Eustacia’s motives in marrying him and the wrongful acts that persisted throughout their marriage and rather then harboring the expected distaste for her, he blames himself for her death. I expected more from his character and hoped for some sort of culmination that represented him more in the image we expected.
While the bringing together and marriage of Diggory and Thomassin was beautifully written I found it was easily expected and again reminded me greatly of the joining of Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd in the idea that those who are good are rewarded in the end. Despite this seemingly happy union I felt as if it was over-shadowed by the overall tragic sense of the story, especially in the end.
Lastly, I was intrigued by Lawrence’s essay and views on the psychology of the characters and the story as a whole. I was struck by the assertion that all of Hardy’s novels revolve around a central background which overall represents a greater understanding then the characters words and actions that tell the tale. With this idea in mind I am looking forward to see how this idea of background and scenery evolves throughout the fallowing texts.
In the third part of The Return of the Native, Clym finally learns that his mother had made an attempt to contact him the day of her death and had been shunned away by his own wife. Through the whole process of learning this information, Clym discovers that Eustacia had been visited by a mysterious man on the day of his mother’s death. He begins to believe she is seeing Wildeve. After being yelled at by Clym, Eustacia decides to leave him.
Once again, in this section, witchery comes back into play. Johnny, the little boy who last spoke to Mrs. Yeobright alive, is at first held back from speaking with Clym because he is thought to be a “witch’s husband.” It is thought that if he is married to a witch than he has some form of witch in himself. Than Charley, who is not aware that Eustacia’s bonfires being a sign for Wildeve, lights one as a surprise for her. Surprisingly, even though Wildeve is now married and a father, he still responds to the fire and shows at Eustacia’s place. A little bit later in the story, Johnny’s mother, seeing Eustacia walking by and knowing her son to be ill, believes that Eustacia is bewitching her son. She then breaks out her own witchery and creates a voodoo doll to hurt Eustacia.
It is ironic how both Wildeve and Eustacia have such dislike for the heath, yet both Clym and Thomasin love the Heath and feel that it is where they belong because they were born there. Ironicially, Wildeve marries Thomasin and Eustacia marries Clym. Not ironically, Eustacia, having left Clym, prepares to flee with Wildeve, which would take both of them away from the depressing nature of the heath. When Thomasin realizes that Wildeve may be leaving with Eustacia and possibly eloping, she runs right to the arms of Clym, who comes to her rescue.
When it finally reaches the climax of the book, the tragedy of the storm and falling in to the water, Clym and Wildeve both jump into the water to save Eustacia’s life. Ironically, Clym manages to survive, and both Wildeve and Eustacia pass away. I never expected Hardy to throw in as much tragedy in the end, but the two that ended up dying together are the two that were probably meant to be together. Once again, a death occurs which Clym blames himself for. Rather than dwell on it, he invites Thomasin and her baby to move in with him.
In the end, Hardy pulls his usual repeating of storyline. Thomasin, who rejects Venn in the beginning for not being good enough, suddenly changes her mind as Venn changes his status. Thomasin and Venn marry, Wildeve and Thomasin are dead, and Clym remains alone. What a depressing ending if you ask me.
The ending of this novel
kind of surprised me. I didn't think it would be as tragic as it
was and I did not foresee Eustacia dying in the
end. Davidson said that Hardy has "changeless characters" in
his novels, but I thought Eustacia had changed
a lot by the end of this story. She seemed to have become weaker,
and more desperate. Although she manipulated people to get her way
and married Clym as a means to another purpose (getting to
Starting in Book V I found that the narrator seemed to stop explaining the motives of the characters. Perhaps Hardy felt, by this juncture of the novel, he has set us up with enough information about the characters to accurately judge their psychological motives. However, it seems a bit inconsistent to me that Hardy leaves Eustacia’s death ambiguous: did she commit suicide or was her death a bizarre accident? I am inclined to believe that Eustacia did commit suicide, however perhaps Hardy believed that it was not important to specify: it seems that no end other than a tragic one would have befitted Eustacia Vye- as her physical appearance and dark, brooding personality emulate the harsh naturalism and tragedy of the heath.
The Return of the Native has a distinctly modern flair, primarily, I think, because of its inherent ambiguity (especially in the last two books). The characters are ambiguous and fatally flawed: Eustacia is beautiful but cruel, Clym is intellectually strong but intuitively weak, Wildeve is a clad but seems to sincerely love Eustacia. This ambiguity makes it difficult to like the characters, but evokes a depth to the novel that would otherwise not have existed. Like a modern novel it often poses more questions than answers: life itself is portrayed as inherently uncertain and happiness perpetually illusive for those who possess a certain depth of spirit (excluding, of course, Tamsin and Diggory Venn). Does that mean that I feel especially sympathetic towards Eustacia, Clym, and Wildeve? Not really. Eustacia professed that she wanted to be happy, but it seems that she saw herself as a great actress in an epic movie- believing in the validity of her emotions, but never quite accepting that they are mostly fabricated for the sake of the performance. It is the performance that she values, not discovering the truths of life. Clym appears as an almost completely pathetic character by the end of the novel. He is not a successful "preacher" (as he preaches a rather general moral and humanist message, rather than a specifically Christian one), those who listen to him understand he is pathetic, ruined man: "[people] remarked that it was well enough for a man to take to preaching who could not see to do anything else." The ostensible reason to preach is to enlighten others to some profound truth of life, but Clym is not doing this: his preaching merely fulfills his own sense of purpose and comfort, and those who listen do so merely out of pity.
I thought the
Furthermore, I was surprised to find that
I enjoyed Davidson’s essay- it seems to accurately articulate what I have perceived about Hardy’s novels for a long time. Davidson suggests that Hardy’s novels are always great stories, but because of their traditional influences, (some may say) not always great novels. I think it is important that Davidson considers both Hardy’s intent and the oral tradition which grounds his writing. Furthermore, Davidson states a very good point: it is dangerous and misleading to read Hardy according to modern ideas of what constitutes a proper novel. Davidson purports that it is especially damaging to regard characterization in a modern way: [today] the only good hero in a serious novel is one who changes in some important aspect; and the essence fo the story is the change." Hardy rejects the modern view that characters should be read from a quasi-psychological, "the reader should experience personal enlightenment through literature" point-of-view. And yet Hardy’s characters ring profoundly, humanly true: "his purpose seems to have been to tell about human life in terms that would present it as most recognizably, and validly, and completely human." It is human life Hardy wishes to portray, with its horrific combination of tragedy, despair, yet persistent beauty.
I thought the Boumelha essay was unfocused and unenlightening, therefore, I’m not going to discuss it here, as this is long enough.
In this last section of the book, I felt the excitement what it would be like to read this novel as a serial. With the end of most of the chapters, I felt compelled to keep turning the page. Unlike the other two novels, I would have never guessed the ending of this novel. The burning of a Eustacia voo doo doll and two dramatic drownings were an ample reward for making it through some of the less eventful chapters peppered throughout the novel. In the last section of the novel, we learn just how detrimental Eustacia's decision to keep quiet about her role in Mrs. Yeobright's death is. While Clym was lying in bed suffering mental and physical anguish by blaming himself for his mother’s death, I felt so sorry for him and found myself almost hating Eustacia for not telling Clym about what really happened that day. However, when he actually discovers the truth of her involvement and he viciously verbally attacks her, I pitied Eustacia especially when she makes the argument that she really did think that he had gone to get the door. Neither Clym nor Eustacia were directly responsible for the death of Mrs. Yeobright, yet Clym is the only one who has trouble realizing this. My impression of Clym was drastically changed after the death of his mother. His extreme and irrational reaction to her death seemed out of character for the man that Hardy had presented us with thus far. This stoic of a man was now engaged in fits of rage and hysterical grief. Even before I read the criticisms, I had suspected some type of Oedipal complex existing in this poor man.
to describe everyday occurrences in such unique ways is incredible. One
of my favorites is still from Under the
criticism was interesting and I agreed with him for the most part. The
idea of the heath itself being the most tragic element of the novel is
interesting. It is tragic because it doesn’t care about its temporary inhabitants.
It is a wild and unpredictable element. One of Hardy’s descriptions of
the heath that seems to support this idea is the part when he says, “Skirting
about the pool she followed the path towards Rainbarrow, occasionally stumbling over twisted furze-roots…..scattered
about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal” (p.
276-275). I was intrigued and I find myself agreeing with the notion that
Hardy’s characters do battle with society while Shakespearean characters
are doing battle with their morals and with God. Clym is
a man who is born wild but is tamed by society and his downfall comes when
he tries to apply the rules and system he adopted from society into the
untamed world of Edgon Heath. To
I believe Davidson’s criticism that this novel was written like an epic or ballad. Much of the poetic prose he uses in his description solidifies this point. We have already established in Under the Greenwood Tree and FFMC that the pastoral workers serve as a kind of Greek chorus. He criticizes Hardy’s critics by saying that they don’t understand that he was a serial author and they misinterpret him. I think this applies to some of our class discussions on Hardy’s novels.
Finally, Penny Boumelha’s description of the role of women is valid. First of all, she says that “the man’s tragedy is primarily intellectual, the women’s sexual”(p. 48). Man is culture, woman is nature. We see this by the end of the novel when Clym is unable to become a teacher and has taken up the role of minister. Meanwhile, the tragedy of Eustacia is that she never gets to experience true love and passion with her true love, Damon.
At the conclusion of the novel, we find that the two characters who have remained in tact, Venn and Thomasin get married. By the end of the novel, my conception of Venn had completely changed. He was more or less the hero of the novel. Meanwhile, Clym has been relentlessly beaten with tragedy. This is something that could have been avoided all together if he never returned to his native heath. Perhaps the moral is that the collision of the systems and guidelines of these two worlds, the pastoral and mainstream society is catastrophic. But is there ever a clear moral to Hardy’s stories? Whatever it is, I have learned that it is not such a good idea to name your child after your husband’s lover afterall.
The criticisms raised a number of interesting
points relating to The Return of the Native. Whereas the criticisms of FFMD contradicted
each other, these worked hand in hand.
I found myself wondering what Hardy could
have meant by creating novels in which “all the exceptional people…are
reduced; only those remain who are steady and genuine, if commonplace” (
Several aspects of the ROTN’s ending slightly bothered me, particularly in Book Six with Hardy’s attempts to wrap things up. I know it was acceptable for cousins to marry each other, and I know it’s in dozens of other novels of C18 and C19, but that still doesn’t mean it’s right. Secondly, I really do like Clym, and if “every pulse of loverlike feeling which had not been stilled during Eustacia’s lifetime had gone into the grave with her,” I think it’s terrible that whatever love he was capable of has died with Eustacia (299). Now he’s left preaching around the countryside alone and with no one to love him; the native has become itinerant because he cannot readjust to his native surroundings. Finally, I felt that the courtship of Thomasin and Venn was somewhat forced, even before I read Hardy’s note on the subject. I suppose Hardy’s editors wanted someone to have a “happy” ending with a marriage, and he threw them and his readers a bone and allowed Thomasin and Venn to marry. After discussing how ambiguous Venn was in class, I think it would have been better for him to “retain . . . his isolation and weird character to the last,” as Hardy had originally desired (307). I think, if anything, that outcome would have kept Venn mysterious; now all of his slightly demonic, definitely odd actions seemed to have been just a means to an end, the end being marriage to Thomasin. I’m glad when Hardy gives some people a happy ending, but not when it’s forced upon him.
I thought Eustacia’s death was interesting Eustacia and Wildeve die in a sort of pond/lake thing in the moors; for Eustacia, at least, this is an interesting return to the moors. At the beginning of ROTN, she is on top of a barrow in the moors surrounded by fire. The last image we see of her is one of the lowest points in the heath, overtaken by water. I suppose that, figuratively, Eustacia’s fire has been put out. In terms of the Eustace name, I don’t know if I buy Hardy’s naming of her. If anyone suffers, it Clym; his mother dies, his wife dies, he doesn’t marry again, and he’s left to wander around, preaching to anyone who will listen. If anyone suffers and is ill treated, it is Clym, not Eustacia. She does die, but sometimes, death is a relief, while the real punishment is in plodding through the rest of one’s years (see Ethan Frome).
D.H. Lawrence’s essay was very interesting,
but the language was, for me, a little off-putting. I guess I am used to critical essays that make
statements, quote passages, and have little of the expressive about them,
I hope that we may able to discuss Mrs Yeobright in a little more detail this week, as I found Boumelha’s discussion of Eustacia, Thomasin and Mrs Yeobright as holding elements of Romanticism, pastoralism, and Realism, respectively, very interesting and something that I hadn’t picked up when I read ROTN. Personally, I liked her; she seemed reasonable and intelligent without being bloodless, and though all women may seem boring compared to Eustacia, there is something to be said for powers of accurate perception, which Mrs Yeobright certainly seems to have.
I just finished Return of The Native, and I'll have to be honest with you. The ending was, in my opinion, not that great. Honestly I thought it sucked. Hardy's endings seem to echo those of Shakespeare's comedies-and all three novels have ended with a marriage. The major female figure survives her ordeals and ends up in a very good position. Thomasin finds herself with a large fortune, and Venn returns to his dairy farm. It seems like the minute these heroes of his, who have already proven themselves as decent and honorable, rise to the same position of the women they love-the women marry them. Thomasin marries Venn because he is the wealthiest man around, he has the best position, and seems to be the best mate. She admits that she may not truly love him, but that he is a suitable mate. Clym ending was pretty contrived-he hangs around and then decides to become a preacher-in order to help those around him. He spends most of his time traveling, writing sermons, and speaking to his public. This is supposed to make him content-it seems rather poor consolation for the fact he has lost a woman he once loved, his dreams are unfulfilled, has been betrayed, suffered, and lost his mother. Drowning in the weir may have better, at least it would have put him out of his misery. I have read that Hardy had a far different ending in consideration, and he only chose this one because it fit the serial. I would be interested to know just what that ending was.
In reading The return of the Native in its' entirety I found Eustacia Vye as the most memorable character within the literature, she has honor in that she declines to cheat on Clym with Wildeve,but is fickle in her choosing of a husband(she yearns for a love that is worthy of her, a man that can rescue her from the dreary and depressing existence that she precives to be living on the heath) despite the fact that Wildeve had become everything that she was looking for in a husband (wealth and prestige from an inheritence from some distant relative) while Clym has regressed in her eyes socially and in prestige, he has not fullfilled her romantic sense of adventure and romance(never actually returnign to paris and becoming a "furze-cutter) that she thought would be present in being married to a Paris diamond broker. She is eventually made into a tragic figure with her inevidable death in the river...leaving Clym in a state of prepetual morning in that he blames himself for both the death of his mother and the eath of Eustacia. In this respect I feel sorry for Clym he has two deaths on his head..at least in his own mind... and seems to now live a life wiht less excitement and passion than he did previously (being that the townspeople recalled in the begining of the novel what a promisnig and intelligent young man he once was)eventually becoming a famous preacher after Venn and Thomasin marry.
The theme of man against nature seems to strongly resonate wihtin this novel, first and foremost the setting of the novel, Egdon Heath is unchanging in its' nature it lives up to its' full capacity in being desolate to its' inhabitants and those who pass by or visit, the health is unyielding throughout.
*Eustacia hates everything connected to the heath especially the furze-gatherers, she feels that the heath is degrading to those that anything connected to the heath is degrading, essentially in this very nature oriented environment Eustacia is rebelling against nature.
*Eustacia sees an escape from nature within the prospect of marrying Clym; she will escape to Paris a city lacking in nature and be rid of the Heath and her life will be forever changed-unfortunately for her it is not!
*Eustacia's deep resentment for nature and the heath is revealed in her true feelings of Clyms new job working in the heath, she rejects the heath for all it is and admits that she still dreams of leaving the heath for something better-in essence lacking in nature
*The death of Eustacia in the cold water-whether it was by accident or an act of suicide-is the last example of man v nature...she could not accept her naturalistic surrondings and as a result denied them...they in return denied her and her existence.
Once again the reader finds Clym in a similar position as he was in the first part: blaming himself for more deaths that aren’t his fault. This time Clym blames himself for the deaths of Damon and Eustacia; however, to me these deaths clearly seem to be punishment for all of their sins. Throughout the entire novel I felt sorry for Clym, but during the final two books I just got annoyed with him.
I couldn’t stand that he was blaming himself for Eustacia’s death and that he was once again completely devastated. Clym knew exactly what Eustacia had done to him and he had even found out that she was the reason for Mrs. Yeobright’s death, but that didn’t matter he was still crushed about losing her. I couldn’t tell if Hardy was showing Clym as a weak character in the final books or just an over emotional one. The end of the novel shows Clym as much different man than he was at the beginning and left me not really liking him, but of course I felt extremely sorry for him especially in the scene at Thomasin and Diggory’s wedding when he looks in the window to realize that everyone is still having fun even though he isn’t there.
The wedding of Diggory and Thomasin was my favorite part though. It was like they were both being rewarded for being such good characters. Through out the entire novel Diggory and Thomasin remain constant and never hurt anyone. They definitely deserve each other and the happiness that they will have in their marriage. Overall, I enjoyed reading The Return of the Native much more than our past novels. I think the characters in this novel are much more complex which makes them so much more interesting to read about. I felt myself drawn into each life that Hardy presents in the novel and always wanted to know what was going to happen to each character, hopefully the novels just keep getting better!
I found the handout interesting because it discusses not just the difficulties of love, but the failure of marriage. Love and marriage seem to be consistent themes in Hardy's novels, and I hadn't picked up on the common thread that "the man's tragedy is primarily intellectual, the woman's sexual." This idea makes sense, however, as it is not only true between Clym and Eustacia, but Troy and Fanny, Bathsheba and Boldwood (however you want to match up the couples), and the trend extends into Tess, which is still my favorite Hardy novel thus far. Not to discuss Tess in too much detail, but it seems that Hardy more subtly addresses tragedy in marriage by the time he wrote that novel, which is another sign of his maturity as a writer that I may not have been able to pinpoint if it weren't for this article. I also highly enjoyed the references to Oedipus and the central mother-son relationship in the novel, because these were characteristics that I picked up on immediately while reading. Although Hardy didn't have Freud as a reference when writing a relationship which begs for psychoanalysis, I think it is a little unfair of the author to claim that it has little significance in a psychological sense. Perhaps I've been too engrained with Freud over the years, or maybe I give Hardy too much credit, but it seems to me that one of his skills is characterizing not only people but relationships, therefore I believe he must have had an idea that there was something a little grotesque about the relationship between Clym and his mother. The author points out that between Clym and Eustacia, "sexuality… is entirely displaced into allusion and implication" and I think the same could hold true for the odd mother-son relationship.
Lawrence wrote that the psychology of the characters was largely dependent upon the Heath; the Heath was the character with the most power and influence. This idea of the setting as the most powerful influence reminds me a Wuthering Heights because I can't read that book without picturing the moors and thinking no wonder everyone is unhappy and killing each other, the environment is harsh, aggressive, and depressing. The Heath isn't always depressing, but it is certainly powerful enough to influence the characters living there. Eustacia feels it; she wanted to leave from the beginning, but Clym relishes the Heath. The whole novel is a battle for control, the biggest battle being that of humanity against the Heath, but also characters against each other in love and marriage, Clym's battle with his mother for control, etc., and I think even without Freud, Hardy was intuitive enough to develop these themes and develop the connections.