The Return of the Native Questions and Answers
by Thomas Hardy

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What is Hardy's philosophy of life in "The Return of the Native"? Why can't the main characters of Return of the Native be called "rustic characters"?

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Suman Chakraborty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The above commentator rightly argues about how the characters in Hardy’s novel do not have control over their lives. However, it can also be added in this regard that Hardy’s philosophy of life in The Return of can be approached from two different, but interconnected perspectives. First of all, Hardy believes that characters are governed by fate. In The Return of the Native Hardy symbolises this ‘fate’ by his presentation of chance and co-incidence. On the other hand, Hardy symbolises nature through the presentation of Egdon Heath. A direct confrontation with Egdon causes tragedy. Eustacia, for example, has always hated Egdon and the end of the novel nature kills her. Hardy’s philosophy in Return of the Native, therefore, is presented in a two dimensional way. On one hand there is Hardy’s conception of fate and on the other hand there is nature, which too has been portrayed in this novel as a governing force.

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Hardy has a very pessimistic philosophy of life as can be seen in his characters who seem to have little control over their own lives.  Hardy saw external circumstances and uncontrollable internal urges as controlling human actions.  In Eustacia Vye, attributes such as her beauty which would usually be considered an asset are actually a curse to her in her surroundings. 

Hardy's characters cannot be called "rustic characters" because they lack the innocence of the rustic characters found in pastoral literature.  This type of literature idealized the rural experience making the simple peasants or shepherds of their story heros when compared to complicated urban characters.  Hardy's characters in the Return of the Native are hardly idealized, simple peasants.  They are complex humans controlled by both their surroundings and animalistic urges which cause them to make poor choices for their lives.

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. While we take an attempt to  peep into Hardy's philosophy of life , we must bring into account the  role and function of chance, co-incidence and accident in a noble of Hardy, we should certainly look into Hardy’s pessimistic cum tragic vision of life .To Hardy ‘happiness is but an occasional episode in a general drama of pain’. Fatalism and its predominating influence on human life are the other factors that lead Hardy to conclude that life is summation of chance, co-incidence and accident. Irony of fate, situation and environment as expounded in Greek tragedies recur in Hardy’s novel. Hardy’s penetrative vision could read the heart-beat of fate and there by he did not find any surety and security in man’s life.


“The Return of the Native” in particular and the other novels in general exhibit the concept of fatalism through the instrument of fate,- as chance, co-incidence and accident. The major character’s of ‘The Return of the Native’, - we may mention Eustacia and Wildeve and with some extent the minor characters, like Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright, simply become the prey of Egdon who symbolizes first of all fate of Greek tragedy and secondly ‘nature incarnate’.

Egdon, the fate of puts traps on the ways of the aforesaid characters that show sense, intellect feeling, whim or disgust of their own. The devices chance, co-incidence and accident in this novel are in the hands of Egdon just as the rope or string remains in the invisible hand of the puppet dancing master who at this will alters, moves, and shifts these puppets in a stage. Life is a stage and fate controls, guides, and moves human beings as she wills. And understudy of Hardy’s novel ‘The Return of the Native’ presents before us the following chances, co-incidence and accident.

Expect the characters ,- Eustacia , and Wild eve all other characters are rustics .They are the product of Egdon .These two characters are foreigners . Clym ,-the hero of the novel is sin to the soil .