illustration of Eustacia standing in the forest

The Return of the Native

by Thomas Hardy

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The events of this story take place in the 1840s. Determine how rural England changed between that time and the time of the book’s publication in 1878. What factors account for such a change?

At the beginning of the book, Thomasin and her aunt are worried about her reputation when she comes home unmarried. Investigate Victorian social customs. Discuss how things have changed since Victorian times. In your opinion, have they changed for the better or for the worse?

The legendary figures of the American West, including Jesse James and Billy the Kid, were active in 1878 when this book was published. Explain the relationship between the wilderness of Egdon Heath and the wilderness of the West as fictional settings.

Some of the people of Egdon Heath consider Eustacia Vye to be a witch because of her exotic looks and behavior. Research other women in history who have been charged with witchcraft, and draw comparisons between them and Eustacia.

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