The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

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Discuss the role of time and the effect of its passage in "The Return of the Native."

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Thomas Hardy's famous 1878 novel, Return of the Native, is unique for featuring a host of developed characters rather than just one main protagonist. The passage of time has a pronounced effect on the novel, as demonstrated especially by the novel's opening. Hardy spends the first several pages just discussing the setting of Egdon Heath. Hardy describes the heath as a personified character, claiming that it has an ancient and permanent quality. As such, the heath (i.e. the landscape of the novel) is the silent witness to the passage of time. Lest the reader miss this clue, Hardy titles his first chapter, "A Face on Which Time Makes Little Impression."

Diggory Venn and Eustacia Vye are both motivated by their memory (which of course results from the passage of time). Memories (i.e., recognition of time past) is also a driving force for Clym Yeobright, particularly as he mourns the lost of his mother and becomes blind.

In addition to time's role in producing galvanizing memories, time also propels the plot. For example, Thomasin and Damon Wildeve are delayed in getting married because of a problem with their marriage certificate. Also, later in the novel, Mrs. Yeobright tries to visit her son, Clym, but he is sleeping and she is denied access by Clym's new wife, Eustacia. Clym and Eustacia's marriage to Clym is problematic by beginning, as Eustacia marries him because she wishes to leave Egdon Heath with him but is successful only in estranging him from his mother. Hardy aptly titles the chapter dedicated to describing their courtship as, "An Hour of Bliss and Many Hours of Sadness."

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