What type of narrative technique does Thomas Hardy use in The Return of the Native?
For Native, Hardy chooses the same type of narration that he uses for many of his novels. His third person omniscient narration is key because it represents Hardy's version of Providence or God. The narrator reports, without emotion, the struggles and conflicts of the poor inhabitants of the heath. Eustacia and Wildeve carry out their tryst all under the watchful but far-removed eye of the narrator.
While third person omniscient narration is not uncommon, readers must note that Hardy chooses it purposely. He stresses in all his works that Providence flirts with humans, dangling hope just out of their grasp, only to pull it back when he grows weary of the game. The narrator acts in the same manner--he hints at the possibility of an optimistic ending, and then forces the reader to "settle" with Eustacia's death and Clym's philosophical ramblings. While he knows and sees all, he does nothing to encourage or prevent the book's events.
For those who have read Fitzgerald's Gatsby, they should see a similarity between Hardy's narrator and Gatsby's Dr. Eckleburg billboard.