illustration of Eustacia standing in the forest

The Return of the Native

by Thomas Hardy

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Briefly discuss the character of Clym Yeobright in The Return of the Native.

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Clym Yeobright is of course the character who corresponds to the title of the book, as he returns to his native land. However, although Clym is clearly one ofthe major characters, he spends the novel makign many mistakes and does not get what he desires, ending up depressed and solitary. He is implicitly compared to Eustacia, in that he is shown to be deeply dissatisfied with his life and wants to make it different. For the majority of the novel, he is trying to take one path that he thinks will bring him happiness, but it all ends in tragedy.

Clym is one of many characters in this novel whose live is symbolised by wasted chances and whose potential has been lost through the malign power of the heath. Note how his past and potential is described:

He had been a lad of whom something was expected. Beyond this all had been chaos... The only absolute certainty about him was that he would not stand still in the circumstances in which he was born.

Clym's return to his homeland was therefore an exciting event until he decided to stay in his homeland, which rather seemed to belie the great potential that it was though the had. As the novel progresses, the series of mistakes that Clym makes reveals his own blindness, which ironically comes to define his character when a literal blindness descends on him. We see this in the way that he is blind to his own feelings and the impact of his actions. The metaphorical blindness that characterises him overtakes his character with grim irony at the end of the story as he is left to contemplate his failure.


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