What is Hardy's view of the future of human civilization in The Return of the Native?

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Thomas Hardy's views on the future of human civilization can be found in his novel The Return of the Native. The novel emphasizes the clash of cultures and values that was occurring during the industrial revolution of Hardy's day. As the four main characters jockey for one another's love and attempt to realize their personal dreams, all emerge as embodiments of traditional values coming into conflict with modernity's ambitious hopes.

The story of Thomasin and Clym Yeobright's desire for a simple life failing to meet the desires of their partners, Damon Wildeve and Eustacia Vye, suggests that Hardy saw the future of human civilization as one of cultural conflict, complete with tragic misunderstandings and failed dreams. The title's reference to Clym as a native returning to his home, bringing with him modern ideas and possibilities—symbolized by his profession as a merchant while abroad—makes clear that Hardy meant to highlight this conflict.

Hardy displays the chaos he believed would be visited upon human civilization by making time a significant theme of his novel. The plot takes place over the course of a year and a day, but events of seconds determine the fates of the characters. The role of time in the failure of the characters to bring their plans to fruition and their divisions to a settled conclusion does not bode well for those looking to Hardy for prophecy.

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