Fate and love are arguably two of the most important themes in Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native. The novel famously revolves around the love pentagon of Diggory Venn, Clym Yeobright, Thomasin Yeobright, Damon Wildeve, and Eustacia Vye. Diggory is a reddleman (one who sells red dye to sheep farmers) who secretly pines for and seeks to protect Thomasin, who herself is engaged to the debonair Damon Wildeve. Wildeve has a history with Eustacia, though he is engaged to be married to Thomasin, who is from a distinguished family. Eustacia becomes engaged to Clym Yeobright (the "native" of the title), who returns from Paris to Egdon Heath. Eustacia is only interested in him because she sees in him an opportunity leave the heath.
Fate plays a significant role in these events. Hardy himself famously says, "providence is nothing if not coquettish" (146) when Eustacia all but gives up trying to attract the attention of Clym at the very moment when he begins to show an interest in her. For Hardy, love and fate are closely linked; fate pronounces who is to love whom—and when.
There are a number of other instances wherein fate plays a decisive role in the events of the plot. Clym Yeobright's mother dies on her walk back from (the now married) Clym and Eustacia's home, where Eustacia denied her entry. Eustacia dies on the very day she plans to meet Wildeve and make good her escape from the Egdon Heath that she loathes. Also at the end of the novel, Clym Yeobright loses his eyesight—his most prized feature as a scholar.