Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 756
Wessex. Imaginary English region that was the setting for Hardy’s major fiction. Born in Dorsetshire, one of five counties in southern England, Hardy re-created this region in his novels as “Wessex.” This unsophisticated rural area is never entirely absent in his fiction or poetry. Late in his life, Hardy returned to Dorset and a new home for himself and his wife.
Egdon Heath. Gloomy wasteland in southern England. Against this majestic but solemn, brooding background a small group of people work out their tragic drama in the impersonal presence of nature. The heath’s grim face, its twisted topography—hills, valleys, rivers, ponds, paths, and open wasteland, a composite of several heaths—is a dominant symbol of primitive, timeless, and uncultivated nature. In this untamed place, nature’s four basic elements—earth, air, fire, and water—control this microcosm of a completely indifferent land. Earth is unalterable. Humans grow nothing; they only harvest the land’s natural furze. At times, even humans appear no more distinguishable from the landscape than “the green caterpillar from the leaf it feeds on.”
To the heath itself, people seem to be just another crop growth. Earthen paths serve as roads for constant travel around and back and forth over the nearly circular heath. Air, in the form of constantly blowing winds, whirls and buffets humans and assaults their ears with eerie sounds. Fire, a symbol of human passion, appears in ceremonial bonfires, signal fires, a black magic fire, and the summer sun’s fiery blazes. Rains flooding Shadwater Weir reveal the dual life/death aspects of the water symbol for humans or other creatures caught in the rapidly revolving whirlpool.
In death, humans finally become part of the heath, as the ancient tumulus or burial mounds testify. These elements, humans, and heath creatures share Egdon’s alternating faces of fall, winter, spring, and summer. Here, nature seems impervious to human or animal conflicts; only seasonal changes matter.
Rainbarrow. Hill that is the symbolic center and heart of Egdon Heath. Its name suggestively foreshadows water deaths. Near the beginning, a rebellious figure stands, ironically, “like an organic part” of the ancient grave mound at the hill’s apex. At the novel’s equally ironic ending, the returned native, surviving tragedy, stands harmoniously and indifferently on top of the same mound, symbolically almost as indistinguishable as an erect furze bush, surrounded by heathmen and women.
Quiet Woman. Inn on Egdon Heath that is the home of Damon Wildeve and his bride Thomasin. Hardy took the inn’s name, along with its sign and legend of a headless woman carrying her head, from a real inn northwest of the fictional one. Moreover, the inn’s name projects a contrasting view of the two young women in the tale, who symbolize the conflict between two value systems: the narrow provincial rules versus the new city freedoms and moralities. The victims of Shadwater Weir are brought to the inn along with the rescuers.
Blooms-End. The Yeobright house is filled with a lifetime of things, treasured objects and furniture, which the unsophisticated culture of the area accepts as a social birthright. The home’s place name, however, suggests that value systems and lifestyles are undergoing changes; the blooms of tradition are ending.
Alderworth. Temporary first home for Clym and his wife, six miles from Blooms-End, that is the setting for the crucial blunder that sets the final actions in motion.
East Egdon. Village near Alderworth which has a local festival with games and dancing. Eustacia watches the dancers moving in a rapidly rotating, whirling circular motion from the outer edge to the center of the circle. She realizes that the circular, whirling movement of the dance repeats the premonition of disaster that she has dreamed. This circular movement also repeats the winds’ circular efforts on Egdon Heath and foreshadows the final whirlpool deaths in Shadwater Weir.
Shadwater Weir. Pool of water formed by a small dam where, on a windy night, the final struggle in this conflict of value systems occurs. The circular, rotational action of the weir’s whirlpool repeats again the foreshadowed movements at the dance and the winds buffeting of walkers on the heath.
Mistover Knap. Home of retired Captain Vye, which resembles a ship in harbor. Unlike any other house in the area, it stands as a symbol of the differences between local practices and values and outside codes and values that have appeared in Egdon Heath.
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The Victorian Age
Today, Victorianism is thought of as another word for sexual repression. Yet the Victorian Age (1839–1901) was also a period of profound social commentary and social developments. The literature of the time addressed such significant issues as the growth of English democracy, the education of the masses, and the impact of industrialization on the working class.
One constant of the Victorian Era was that it was a time of an increased sense of social responsibility. In her early days on the throne, Victoria was viewed as liberal in her beliefs. A marked change came in 1840, when she married Albert, her mother’s nephew and prince of Saxe-Colburg Gotha. Albert was conservative, moralistic, and prudish; Victoria adopted similar attitudes. After his death in 1861 she reigned for another forty years and never remarried. Her personality influenced all of society and set the tone for the age. In a way it provided a moral compass that provided a sense of constancy in a turbulent time.
Politically, the era was characterized by a prolonged economic boom. England reigned as a prosperous and dominant world superpower. In 1853, England, the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and France fought a military conflict against Russia, in what was known as the Crimean War. It was fought to keep Russia from widening their influence in the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The conflict ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30, 1856.
The novelist most commonly associated with the Victorian Age is Charles Dickens (1812–1870), whose books were modest about sexual relations; yet, they are aggressive in portraying the wretched social conditions of urban life. Thomas Hardy is also associated with the era, even though his works were considered controversial and even prurient according to Victorian standards. Hardy’s sexual openness in portraying Eustacia’s and Wildeve’s lust for each other even when they are married to others was viewed as shocking. It certainly violated the sensibilities of the time, and earned Hardy a legion of detractors who looked on his works as a form of pornography.
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Point of View
This novel is told from the third-person point of view, which means that the narrator is a disembodied voice, referring to each character as “he” or “she.” However, the narrative is not omniscient. This means that the narrator looks at the story unfolding from different points of view, but when it settles on any particular viewpoint it stays consistent, if only for a short amount of time. When new information is introduced into the story, that information is initially understood only in terms of the narrator’s point of view at the time.
For instance, when Wildeve first appears, readers are not told who he is; his character is revealed by what he says. Clym is a mystery for Eustacia to fantasize about long before his thoughts are related. In fact, even when they do talk outside of the Christmas party, the narrative shifts from her perspective to his then back to hers. Giving readers access to just one person’s experience at a time is called “limited omniscience.”
By limiting the flow of information to the reader, Hardy is able to create a sense of mystery in the story. This is accomplished because the motivations and intentions of the characters are not always immediately clear. When Hardy wants to convey theories and opinions, he frequently presents a scene in which several of the local characters are gathered together and talking while doing something else. This occurs in the bonfire scene in the chapter called “The Custom of the Country” and in the later chapter where people gather and discuss the best way to deal with a snakebite. A contrast to this is the scene of hauling the bucket out of the well: general knowledge of the subject of bucket retrieval is conveyed directly from the narrator to the reader here, rather than through the conversation of the locals.
This book was written for magazine serialization, and this is reflected in its structure. Actions occur within specific episodes, and future developments in the story are foreshadowed. Chapters end with lines that are meant to raise curiosity, a technique that is effective to keep readers of novels turning the pages. Moreover, it was meant to inspire excitement so the reader would buy the next month’s installment.
A good example of this technique is when Thomasin returns unmarried from Angelbury. The chapter ends with her aunt asking, “Now Thomasin . . . what’s the meaning of this disgraceful performance?” Readers know that the explanation will follow, but it does not follow right away. Viewers of television—where shows are regularly scheduled in weekly installments—are very familiar with this technique.
Critics have also contended that this book is structured like a Shakespearean drama. Most of Shakespeare’s plays were organized in five acts, with a climactic conclusion in the last act. Although The Return of the Native is presented in six books, most critics agree that its artistic structure only requires five—the sixth was added to please general audiences that wanted to see everything turn out all right in the end. A clue to the book’s debt to Shakespeare is the reference to King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, in the introduction.
The names of Thomas Hardy’s characters are almost always symbolic of their functions within his novels, and the names in The Return of the Native are no exception. “Wildeve” suggests someone on the verge, or eve, of wildness, while his first name, Damon, is commonplace enough to suggest that he will never break out of the mold.
Eustacia is derived from the word “eustacy,” which means a change in the level of the sea all around the world, indicating the immense changes that she is set to bring into the lives of the people on the heath and beyond. It also rings of the prefix “eu-,” which has an Latin meaning of “good” and an Old Norse meaning “to want,” and from “ecstasy.” Her last name, “Vye,” indicates the character’s combative stance toward the world.
Clym’s last name, “Yeobright,” combines the word “yeoman” which indicates a servant or underling with the indication of his natural intelligence, or brightness. There are minor characters here also given names that are common words that appear in dictionaries, such as “Nunsuch” (normally spelled “nonesuch”), “Christian,” and “Fairway.”
The sweeping topographical and historical description of Egdon Heath that opens this book is considered to be one of the finest extended descriptions in all of English literature. The importance of this setting to the events of the novel cannot be overemphasized. It is the land’s flatness and barrenness that has made it useless for development, which means that the civilized world has passed it by. The residents of the heath are isolated and possess their own distinct culture, separate from the rest of the world.
Eustacia is feared by the ordinary people and alluring to Wildeve and Clym for the same reason, because she keeps herself separate from the ordinary people; she is treated as if she has supernatural powers, as if she can transcend the land’s hard demands. Clym is treated as an almost mystical personage because he has been to Paris, even though there is no indication that in Paris he was treated as anything more than a jeweler’s clerk. The only way for people of the heath to gain wealth is to inherit it from far away, as Wildeve does, or to earn it in other places, as Diggory Venn does.
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Venn and Thomasin's wedding resolves the love plot and permits Hardy to move Clym forward into a career as an open-air preacher on progressive subjects, both social and religious. In his 1912 definitive edition of the novel, however, Hardy added this somewhat irascible postscript to the third chapter of "Aftercourses": "the writer may state here that the original conception of the story did not design a marriage between Thomasin and Venn. He was to have retained his isolated and weird character to the last, and to have disappeared mysteriously from the heath, nobody knowing whither—Thomasin remaining a widow." The author continues that serial publication circumstances prompted the effort at a happy ending, but makes his own artistic preference clear. He cautions that readers possessing an "austere artistic code can assume the more consistent conclusion to be the true one." Carl Weber elaborates on this matter by reminding us that Hardy offered the novel to two prestigious British journals, only to be rejected by each. He eventually found a publisher in Belgravia, a somewhat less respected publication, but the editorial staff there found the denouement too sad, whereas the editor of Cornhill magazine had found the relationship among Eustacia, Clym, Wildeve, and Thomasin somewhat too risqué for a family publication. Rather than insist on his own gloomy denouement, Hardy wrote the four chapters that conclude the novel to appease the popular desire for a happy ending, an artistic compromise he regretted bitterly more than two decades later. As Weber points out, these were serious, not trivial, artistic compromises. Hardy planned to emulate the five-act organization of Renaissance tragedy by building his narrative around five books; moreover, limiting the action to one year and one day was a deliberate adaptation of the unity of time Aristotle observed in classical Greek tragedy. Finally, many readers find Clym's vocation as an open-air preacher anticlimactic and the marriage of Venn and Thomasin antithetical to the overall tragic and solemn character of the story. It seems tacked on because it is.
The concession, which troubled Hardy enough to complain in the Wessex edition but not enough to persuade him to rescind the happy ending chapters, points to the fundamental conflict between the popular desire for soothing fictions and the artist's obligation to follow through on his or her own vision, wherever that may lead. Hardy regretted the compromises his public forced upon him, and, while he never again capitulated in just this way, he was consistently thin-skinned about reviewers who took him to task for the darkness of his fundamental vision. Within two decades, this tension would take a more definitive form. Hardy would not knuckle under to the pressures of editors or reviewers again; but at the height of his artistic power, he concluded his career as a novelist with his masterwork, Jude the Obscure, and returned to his original literary loyalty, poetry, for the remaining thirty years of his life. While posterity gained a poet of great power and genius with this decision, it also lost more work from a novelist of the very highest order of importance.
Experimental technique, beyond those matters of ending and tragic construction, is not a strong suite for Hardy. He dexterously manipulates the standard Victorian omniscient technique with firm control, occasionally interjecting a judgmental lyric voice. His descriptions are at times magnificent, carrying the sense of antiquity and force of the Wessex landscape through the very language with which he represents it. Often, readers and critics think of the heath as itself a character, at times benign and often malevolent, in The Return of the Native.
By far, the most impressive technical feature of the novel is the handling of the catastrophe scene. To convey suspense and build the mood of gathering doom in that episode, the author abandons temporarily the omniscient narrative that has been the primary vehicle of the novel to create a series of contemporaneous vignettes, following several characters to the moment of crisis. The enables Hardy to convey an empathic view of each, and to restore sympathy for Eustacia as she meets her fate, fear for Thomasin and her daughter as they wander on the heath, a share in Venn's frustration as saving Eustacia becomes less likely, and sympathy with Clym as the inevitable approaches. The technique skillfully avoids the melodrama to which the situation lends itself. Moreover, it deepens our understanding of each character, heightens the suspense, and maintains realism.
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In The Return of the Native Hardy examines the process of England's movement from an agrarian to an urban civilization, and from a community of faith to a blend of rural superstition and general doubt.
1. Any conversation about The Return of the Native inevitably turns on the character and power of Eustacia Vye. This study has focused on her evolution from the witch/temptress figure to the complex woman Hardy created. Readers might well examine their own responses to this character. Is her wish for a more glamorous life unreasonable? Is she willful to a fault? Does her restlessness justify her pursuit of Clym as a man who can lead her out of Egdon? Is it possible that she convinces herself that she does love Clym out of her own desperate need to find a way out of Egdon Heath? How much, if any, of Vye's character is lost in the film version? Are these losses, if they exist, the result of limitations in the medium, or screenwriting and casting decisions?
2. To what degree is pride the key ingredient in this narrative of frustrated ambitions and hopes?
3. Is Diggory Venn convincing as a character, or does Hardy manipulate him too much? Are you content with his transformation in the "Aftercourses" section?
4. How do you feel about Hardy's decision( s) to add the "Aftercourses" section, then repudiate but not rescind it?
5. Can you explain Thomasin's or Eustacia's attraction to Damon Wildeve? Hardy describes him as a man in whom "no man would have seen anything to admire," but "no woman would have seen anything to dislike." Is this simply a sexist observation, or are aspects of Wildeve's character central to the narrative's credibility implied here or elsewhere in the book?
6. Is Clym to blame for assuming that the spirited Eustacia will find happiness in following his dream, becoming a schoolmistress and the helpmate in his great enterprise? Is concern about her feelings a modern sensibility reading Hardy from a twenty-first century perspective, or is it something built into this text? In short, if we choose to criticize Clym's behavior, are we operating within the parameters of Hardy's text, or are we imposing our "modern" view of women's rights on a Victorian novel where they may not belong?
7. Many readers find the scene in which Venn wins Thomasin's and Clym's legacy from Wildeve somewhat silly. Do you? If so, does the scene detract from the overall power of the novel?
8. Can you sympathize with Eustacia's predicament in the powerful chapter, "The Closed Door," in which she refuses to answer Mrs. Yeobright's knock? Clym and Mrs. Yeobright clearly feel that she has done something horrible. How do you feel about it?
9. Do you feel that Clym ever comes to a state of personal awareness of his role in the suffering of his mother and himself? In short, does he learn from his sorrow, as the heroes of Shakespeare's tragedies, on which the novel was modeled, generally do? What did he learn?
10. What do you think of Hardy's decision to transform Clym into an open-air preacher in the "Aftercourses" section? Readers familiar with Hardy's other masterpieces might recall ministerial roles or aspirations among characters as diverse as Jude Fawley (Jude the Obscure) and both Alex d'Urberville and Angel Clare (Tess of the d'Urbervilles). Does this role adequately resolve Clym's suffering and his reformist aspirations, or, if we recall Hardy's long-standing quarrel with organized religion, is there a hint of irony in Clym's final choice?
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1840s: Milk production in dairy farming is all done by hand.
1878: The first commercial milking machines are produced in Auburn, New York.
Today: Dairy farming is automated. Cows are kept in small enclosures that allow no room to move and seldom come into contact with humans.
1840s: The typewriter is a new invention. Patented in 1843, it uses the concept of the moving carriage to make letters strike evenly.
1878: The typewriter is greatly improved when the Remington Arms Company added a shift key that would allow the same document to include lower—and upper—case characters.
Today: Typewriters are practically obsolete. Word processing makes any desktop system capable of professional-quality graphics.
1840s: The first rail lines are just beginning to connect major urban areas, with passenger train travel starting in the 1830s. The only transportation available to inhabitants of Egdon Heath is primitive, such as horse-drawn carriages.
1878: Railways are common across the English countryside. They link cities and allow travel to even isolated areas.
Today: With automobiles providing convenient personal transportation, travel to any point in England is quick and easy.
1840s: Human behavior is a matter for speculation by philosophers and fiction writers.
1878: The first laboratory for experimental psychology is opened by Wilhelm Max Wundt, making a science out of the study of the mind.
Today: The latest developments in psychology have been in the area of treating depressions and violent behavior with mood-altering drugs.
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Although the novel lends itself to cinematic representation, especially the early scenes on Guy Fawkes Day, comparatively few efforts have been made to capture The Return of the Native cinematically. The novel was dramatized for staging in 1920 by the Dorchester Players, an amateur group. Biographer Michael Millgate notes that Hardy took intense pleasure in the adaptation, though he had little to do with the actual script. In 1998, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, perhaps influenced by the moderately successful feature film versions of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, featured a strong cast and offered a generally satisfactory rendering of Hardy's text. The cinematography was exceptionally effective. Much of the film was shot in location in southwest England, and the visual effects of the heath create a powerful image of the beautiful countryside Clym so loves, and the hard, austere country Eustacia Vye so passionately despises.
As is often the case with film adaptations of great novels, however, the depth of Eustacia's character is completely lost in the film. Catherine Zeta-Jones captures the stunning beauty that so bewitches three men in the novel; Zeta-Jones ably conveys on the screen the corporal body of Eustacia Vye, but not her powerful spirit. Hampered by an uninspired screenplay by Robert W. Lenski and to a degree by the medium of film itself, Zeta-Jones's Eustacia lacks the depth, the passion, and especially the self-awareness of Hardy's creation. For instance, the film cannot convey the internal conflicts that are part of Eustacia's decision to escape with Wildeve, during which she weighs the compromise of making a commitment to a man she knows is unworthy of her against the prospect of remaining on the dreaded heath, spurned even by her disappointing husband. Moreover, the screenplay implies that Eustacia's death is a suicide, an issue which is often debated when Hardy's novel is analyzed. Captain Vye removes loaded pistols from the wall because of the way his granddaughter is staring at them, a particularly effective moment in the film, but one that makes suicide seem a certainty, whereas Hardy depicted Eustacia's death offstage, leaving room for speculation. Zeta-Jones's character lacks that brooding passion, that level of self-awareness, that makes Hardy's heroine special. Whether the result of Zeta- Jones's decision or that of director Jack Gold, this Eustacia is a flirt, whereas Hardy's heroine is a subtle manipulator. In a modification of an important scene from the novel, she tries to influence Venn (played by Steven Mackintosh), but is unsuccessful and seems unsure how to deal with a man she cannot influence sexually.
Although Hallmark Hall of Fame productions are among the most distinguished in American television history, they are, after all, part of a popular culture enterprise. It comes as no surprise that the film emphasizes the one element of the narrative Hardy himself regretted, the "happy ending" with the marriage between Venn and Thomasin. The film has the event follow shortly after Eustacia's and Wildeve's deaths, with a silliness that only Hollywood could countenance serving as deus ex machina. Although the novel makes clear that Venn's complexion is deeply ingrained because of the "reddle" in which he deals, and it requires an entire winter and spring for the reddlman's complexion to return to normal, in the film the red is literally washed from Venn's face during the storm, after he has rescued Eustacia's and Wildeve's bodies and saved Clym, as if the plunge into the rushing waters (not a deep pool, as in the novel) were baptismal and transformative. Moreover, Hardy's prim Victorian, Thomasin, undergoes a mourning period of eighteen months before she will even consider a proposal from her dutiful lover and protector. Finally, the film introduces an ectoplasmic Zeta-Jones/ Eustacia while Clym is giving one of his open-air classrooms (not, as in "Aftercourses," a sermon), as a trite Hollywood style effort to represent the lasting effect of Eustacia's permanence in Clym's memory, sadly dumbed down to her sexual allure, not her force of character.
In addition to a magnificent sense of the physical space of Hardy's novel, the Hall of Fame production captures the mendacity and cruelty of the Egdon peasants beautifully. The single element of the film, which will instruct the novice in Hardy studies and delight the expert, is Joan Plowright's brilliant performance as Mrs. Yeobright. Plowright perfectly brings to life and death the pride, imperiousness, and ultimate vulnerability of this character who affects so many others' happiness both in her life and her death. While none of the performances by other actors is particularly memorable, Plowright brings a dimension to the screen that perfectly captures Hardy's enigmatic creation.
All in all, the production generally follows Hardy's narrative faithfully, leaving out some subplots, until the end when Hollywood cliches substitute for Hardy's pessimism. Plowright's performance, the representation of the peasants, and the magnificent sense of Egdon heath as a beautiful and terrible place enrich visually the power of Hardy's written text, but even they cannot in the final analysis take its place.
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Return of the Native was adapted as a television presentation for the Hallmark Hall of Fame series in 1994, starring Clive Owen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Joan Plowright. The television movie was directed by Jack Gold and released as a video in 1999 by Hallmark Home Entertainment.
Audio Partners Publishing Company has an unabridged, 12-tape edition of actor Alan Rickman reading the novel which was produced in 1999.
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Adams, Francis, Review of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, in The Fortnightly Review, Vol. LII, No. CCVII, July 1891, pp. 19–22.
Carpenter, Richard, Thomas Hardy, Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1964.
Eliot, T. S., After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy, Harcourt & Brace, 1934.
Hawkins, Desmond, “The Native Returns 1876–1878,” Barnes & Noble Books, 1976, p. 76.
Henley, W. E., Review, in The Academy, Vol. XIV, No. 343, November 30, 1878, p. 517.
Page, Norman O., “The Return of the Native,” in Reference Guide to English Literature, edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick, St. James Press, 1991.
Review, in The Athenaeum, November 23, 1878, p. 654.
Taylor, Richard, “Thomas Hardy: A Reader’s Guide,” in Thomas Hardy: The Writer and His Background, St. Martin’s Press, 1980, pp. 219–58.
For Further Study
Brooks, Jean R., “The Return of the Native: A Novel of Environment,” in Modern Critical Views: Thomas Hardy, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1987, pp. 55–72. Analyzes the novel’s most conspicuous literary theme.
Davidson, Donald, “The Traditional Basis of Thomas Hardy’s Fiction,” in Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Albert J. Guerard, Prentice-Hall, 1963, pp. 10–23. Identifies elements of the oral tradition of rural England in The Return of the Native and other works.
Hands, Timothy, “’Yea, Great and Good, Thee, Thee we hail’: Hardy and the Ideas of his Time,” in Thomas Hardy, St. Martin’s Press, 1995. Traces the philosophical movements of the late nineteenth century and evaluates their influences in Hardy’s works.
Hawkins, Desmond, Hardy the Novelist, David & Charles, 1965. This respected analysis offers a strong background to students who are becoming acquainted with Hardy’s fiction.
Hillis Miller, J., “The Dance of Desire,” in Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970, pp. 144–75. Considers the themes of desire and longing in Hardy’s novel.
Hornback, Bert G., The Metaphor of Chance: Vision and Technique in the Work of Thomas Hardy, Ohio University Press, 1971. Exploration of Hardy’s narrative technique.
Mickelson, Anne Z., “The Marriage Trap,” in Thomas Hardy’s Women and Men: The Defeat of Nature, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976. A feminist reading of Eustacia Vye.
Sumner, Rosemary, Thomas Hardy: Psychological Novelist, St. Martin’s Press, 1981. Discusses the treatment of psychological issues in Hardy’s work.
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Bloom, Harold, ed. Thomas Hardy’s “The Return of the Native.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Introduction addresses the relation of Arthur Schopenhauer and Percy Bysshe Shelley to Hardy, then discusses the “transformation” of Eustacia. Contains essays Brooks calls the “best modern interpretations” written by Lawrence, Howe, Brooks, Eggenschwiler, Meisel, Gregor, Fleishman, and Johnson.
Gindin, James, ed. Thomas Hardy: “The Return of the Native.” New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. Contains the novel, twelve of Hardy’s poems and the portion of his autobiography related to the novel, five contemporary criticisms, and fourteen later critiques on the characters, themes, and techniques of the novel. Ends with a selected bibliography.
Jewell, John. “Hardy’s The Return of the Native.” The Explicator 49, no. 3 (Spring, 1991): 159-162. Focuses on Hardy’s symbolic use of red through his use of the reddle. Concludes that, because of the red dye’s location on the ewe, the “reddle functions as a kind of scarlet letter.” Explores the character of Diggory Venn as a symbol of evil.
Lawrence, D. H. “Study of Thomas Hardy.” In Selected Literary Criticism, edited by Anthony Beal. New York: Viking Press, 1956. Published after Lawrence’s death. Provides an early psychological study of Hardy’s characters, focusing on what Clym and Eustacia desire. Explains why The Return of the Native is the “first tragic and important novel.” Probes into the tragic effects of the heath on its inhabitants.
Tighe, Mary Ann. “The Return of the Native: Self-Improvement Leads to Literary Judgment.” English Journal 70, no. 5 (September, 1981): 30-32. A teacher describes her success with having her students role-play three predicaments, later studying Hardy’s portrayal of the same conflicts, the theme of fate, and Greek tragedy traditions.