What are the elements of the regional novel found in Hardy's The Return of the Native? Elaborate with two examples from the text.

There are various elements of the regional novel found in Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, including the lengthy descriptions of the landscape of Wessex, the descriptions of the folk customs of the characters who live in Wessex, and the realistic dialect given to those characters.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout the novel, Hardy describes Egdon Heath in great detail, Egdon Heath being a part of the fictional English county of Wessex in which the novel is set. He describes the heath, for example, as a "sombre stretch of rounds and hollows" characterized by "summits and shoulders of heathland" in all directions. He further writes that Egdon Heath is a place which is "majestic without severity, impressive without showiness ... grand in its simplicity." These frequent and detailed descriptions of Egdon Heath allow the readers to immerse themselves in the regional setting so that they, too, can feel a part of the story.

Hardy also creates a realistic regional setting by describing the folk customs of the inhabitants of Wessex. In chapter 4, for example, Hardy describes the customs of mummers. Mummers are amateur actors who perform folk plays during the Christmas season. In Wessex, Hardy writes that these mummers are "moved by an inner compulsion to say and do their allotted parts." They do not seem to enjoy the custom of mumming, but rather do it simply to continue a tradition for the sake of tradition. Indeed, the mummers carry on their custom "with a stolidity and absence of stir" that makes the local people wonder why something "done so perfunctorily should be kept up at all."

The Return of the Native can also be identified as a regional novel because of the rustic, authentic dialect of the characters. We can see such an example of dialect in the speech of one of the locals, Grandfer Cantle:

Well, 'tis right to be afeard of things, if folks can't help it .... 'Twould have saved me many a brave danger in my time.

The language here is characterized by colloquialisms such as "'tis," 'Twould," and "afeard," and because of colloquial language like this, the voices of the local characters become more authentic. At the same time, Hardy reinforces the impression that the action of the story takes place in a particular, regional setting.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial