One of Thomas Hardy's classic statements about modern love, courtship, and marriage, The Return of the Native is set in the pastoral village of Egdon Heath. The fiery Eustacia Vye, wishing only for passionate love, believes that her escape from Egdon lies in her marriage to Clym Yeobright, the returning "native," home from Paris and discontented with his work there. Clym wishes to remain in Egdon, however-a desire that sets him in opposition to his wife and brings them both to despair. Surrounding them are Clym's mother, who is strongly opposed to his marriage; Damon Wildeve, who is in love with Eustacia but married to Clym's cousin Thomasin; and the oddly ambiguous observer Diggory Venn, whose frustrated love for Thomasin turns him into either a guardian angel or a jealous manipulator-or perhaps both. This stew of curdled love and conflicting emotions can only boil over into tragedy, and the book's darkly ironic ending marks it as both a classically Victorian novel and a forerunner of the modernist fiction that followed it.
About the Author
Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over eight hundred audiobooks and has earned five coveted Audie Awards, and he has won fifty-seven Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named him a Golden Voice.
Date of Birth:June 2, 1840
Date of Death:January 11, 1928
Place of Birth:Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England
Place of Death:Max Gate, Dorchester, England
Education:Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks
Read an Excerpt
A SATURDAY afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
Excerpted from "The Return of the Native"
Copyright © 1999 Thomas Hardy.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Introduction Thomas Hardy: A Brief Chronology A Note on the Text
The Return of the Native
Appendix A: Prefaces and Maps
- The Preface to the 1895 Wessex Novels Edition
- The Postscript added to the 1912 Wessex Edition
- From the General Preface to the Novels and Poems (1912)
- Map of Egdon Heath (1878)
- Map of Wessex (1895)
Appendix B: Contemporary Reviews
- From The Athenaeum (23 November 1878)
- Hardy’s response to the Athenaeum review (30 November 1878)
- From W.E. Henley, The Academy (30 November 1878)
- From the Saturday Review (4 January 1879)
- From the Spectator (8 February 1879)
- From the New Quarterly Magazine (October 1879)
- From Havelock Ellis, “Thomas Hardy’s Novels,” Westminster Review (April 1883)
Appendix C: Philosophical and Political Contexts
- Positivism: from Auguste Comte, System of Positive Polity (1851−54; trans. 1875−76)
- The Individual and Freedom: from John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)
- The Woman Question: from John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies (1865) and John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women (1869)
- Hedonism and Modernity: from Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)
Appendix D: Scientific Influences
- From Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (1830−33)
- From Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)
- From Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Biology (1864−67)
- From Thomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
Appendix E: Other Writings by Hardy
- A Selection of Hardy’s Poetry
- At a Bridal
- Neutral Tones
- Nature’s Questioning
- An August Midnight
- The Dead Man Walking
- By the Barrows
- The Roman Road
- The Moth-Signal
- The Oxen
- Welcome Home
- The Graveyard of Dead Creeds
- From “The Dorsetshire Labourer” (1883)
- From “The Profitable Reading of Fiction” (1888)
- From “Candour in English Fiction” (1890)
- From The Life of Thomas Hardy (1928; 1930)
Appendix F: The Play of Saint George
Appendix G: Arthur Hopkins’s Illustrations for the Monthly Serialization of Belgravia (1878)
Reading Group Guide
1. What does Egdon Heath symbolize to you? How does each character relate to the heath? To what extent does the landscape control the actions of the characters or influence them? How do the characters resist or succumb to the landscape? What is the role of urban life in the novel?
2. Discuss Clym's spiritual odyssey. How does it shed light on Hardy's concerns in the novel? Would you describe Clym as idealistic? How does his attitude compare to that of the people of Egdon Heath or that of Eustacia?
3. Why does Eustacia hate Egdon Heath? Is she too headstrong? How much control does Eustacia have over events that shape her life? Over the lives of others? Do you think Eustacia symbolizes human limitation or potential? Do you think her death is a reconciliation of sorts, or not?
4. Discuss the role of fate or chance in the novel. Is Hardy sympathetic to the victims of chance in this novel? To what extent are events caused by the force of a character's personality (e.g., Eustacia), rather than by chance? To what extent do actions produce results opposite from that desired? Do you think there is a connection between this use of irony and the role of fate in the novel?
5. Discuss the novel's opening scene, in which Hardy describes Egdon Heath. How does this establish the emotional tone of the book? How does it foreshadow the action within the novel?
6. Why is Eustacia interested in Clym? How does this set the wheels of the plot in motion? How does this affect the other characters, like Thomasin and particularly Clym's mother? What is Wildeve's role in Mrs. Yeobright's fate?