illustration of Eustacia standing in the forest

The Return of the Native

by Thomas Hardy

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How do Damon Wildeve and Clym Yeobright compare as husbands and lovers in The Return of the Native?

Quick answer:

For different reasons, neither Damon Wildeve nor Clym Yeobright is really cut out to be a lover or a husband. Whereas Clym loves Egdon Heath more than any woman, Damon is more concerned with possessing women than loving them.

Expert Answers

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Clym Yeobright is a complicated character, and his treatment of women doesn't always invite unstinting admiration. At various times, he gives the impression that Egdon Heath is more important than his wife, Eustacia.

That said, he's generally speaking a decent and generous man who, despite his various shortcomings as a husband, does at least have an understanding of what love is. Although his marriage to Eustacia was a mistake, there's no doubt that his intentions were honorable. A serious man with a tendency to brood, Clym has an elevated understanding of love and what it entails, but it's clear, not least to himself, that he's not really cut out to be a husband.

Damon Wildeve, on the other hand, has no real understanding of love at all. A bit of a lady-killer, he sees women as objects, things to be possessed, certainly not human beings to be loved, respected, and valued in their own right. His attraction to Eustacia is based on lust rather than love. When Eustacia gives him the brush-off, he marries Thomasin Yeobright, the very same woman to whom he delayed marriage while eagerly pursuing Eustacia.

Although Damon claims to love both Eustacia and Thomasin, it's obvious that his feelings are rather shallow, to say the least. An impulsive man who seldom stops to think about anything, Damon Wildeve lacks the constancy and reliability that most women seek in a husband.

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