To what extent is Chapter 1 a significant exposition of The Return of the Native?

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appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thomas Hardy's novel The Return of the Native, the landscape of the village that Clemson Yeobright returns to is compellingly described in detail in the first chapter. The village is isolated, standing out on a windswept heath that is both stark and desolate and yet also hauntingly beautiful. The descriptions portray a landscape covered in certain types of vegetation native to the region (namely heather and gorse, which flourish in harsh conditions of wind and cold), and the names of many plants and trees demonstrate their prominence in the memories and daily lives of those who live there and those who were born and raised there, like Yeobright. 

Hardy's novels are notable for the dramatic landscapes portrayed: the influence of the landscapes upon characters' actions and imaginations cannot be underestimated. Dorset is rugged and rural, not far from Cornwall which is rich in history and filled with neolithic stone circles and monoliths. The Egdon Heath described in the novel is mysterious and laden with pagan meaning, as with this quote: "Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of winter say Let there be Light." This quote effectively joins both pagan and Christian imagery, paralleling the contradictory imagery and themes of the novel itself (Clym's love of nature reflecting a pagan worldview, and Eustacia's moral dilemma echoing Christian guilt). 

appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You are very welcome!

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The Return of the Native

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