Clement Yeobright, called Clym, a native of Egdon Heath who returns to visit with his mother and cousin after having made a career for himself as a successful diamond merchant in Paris. His success and his education make him an outstanding figure among the humble people who live scattered about the wild heath, and his return for a visit is a great occasion for them. During his stay, he decides to remain, finding that the heath and its people mean far more to him than worldly success in Paris; his intention is to become a teacher and open a school to educate the people among whom he grew up, a superstitious and ignorant, if lovable and kindly, set. A sensitive and somewhat rash young man, he falls in love with Eustacia Vye, a beautiful and passionate woman. In her, Clym sees a perfect helpmeet for a schoolmaster, but she sees in him only a chance to escape the heath and to live abroad. Clym and Eustacia Vye are married, over the protests of his mother. These protests arouse the anger of Clym, who after his marriage does not communicate with her. Disaster, in the form of partial blindness, strikes Clym, but he accepts his plight philosophically and turns to the homely task of furze-cutting to earn a living. Unhappy in her lot, Eustacia turns against him. On one occasion, she refuses to let his mother into the house, an inhospitable act that indirectly causes the death of the older woman. Stricken by his mother’s death and, a short time later, by his wife’s suicide, Clym becomes a lay preacher to the people of the heath.
Eustacia Vye, the self-seeking and sensuous young woman who marries Clym Yeobright. Unhappy on the heath, bored by life with her grandfather, she tries to escape. First she seeks an opportunity to do so by marrying Clym. When he cannot and will not leave the heath, she turns to a former fiancé, now a married man. At the last, however, she cannot demean herself by unfaithfulness to her husband; instead of running away with her lover, she commits suicide by plunging into a millpond.
Damon Wildeve, a former engineer, still a young man, who settles unhappily upon the heath as keeper of the Quiet Woman Inn. Selfish and uninspired, when he loses Eustacia Vye to Clym Yeobright, he marries Thomasin Yeobright, Clym’s cousin, out of spite. The marriage is an unhappy one, for Wildeve still pursues Eustacia, who is also unhappy because her husband cannot give her the life she wishes. Wildeve’s pursuit of illicit love ends in his own death, for he drowns while trying to save Eustacia’s life after she throws herself into a pond rather than elope to Paris as his mistress.
Thomasin Yeobright, called Tamsin, Clym’s cousin, reared with Clym by his mother. A simple and faithful girl who loves Damon Wildeve despite his treatment of her, she is also faithful to the conventions and clings to her marriage even after it turns out badly. At her husband’s death, she inherits a small fortune left by his uncle shortly before Wildeve’s end. She finds happiness eventually in a second marriage and in her little daughter.
Diggory Venn, an itinerant young reddleman in love with Thomasin Yeobright. Once of good family and some little fortune, he has fallen upon evil days. His lonely existence gives him opportunity to act in his love’s behalf, and he tries to circumvent Wildeve’s pursuit of Eustacia Vye. Having saved up a little money, he becomes a dairyman and presents himself, after a decent time, as Thomasin’s suitor, following her husband’s death. His patience, love, and understanding are rewarded when she accepts him.
Mrs. Yeobright, Clym Yeobright’s mother and Thomasin Yeobright’s aunt. In her good sense, she opposes both their marriages, although the young people misinterpret her motives as selfish. Being of a forgiving nature, she tries to be reconciled with her son and his wife, as she became with Thomasin and her husband. Yet...
(The entire section is 5,389 words.)