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The Return of the Native

The Return of the Native Summary


Here you will find a The Return of the Native summary (Thomas Hardy's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Return of the Native Summary Overview

In an unexpected turn of events, a man named Diggory Venn rides into the heath, carrying a distraught Thomasin Yeobright in his wagon. Her planned nuptials with Damon Wildeve have been thwarted due to a mistake in the marriage license, a mishap we soon discover was orchestrated by Wildeve himself. Wildeve's affection for another woman named Eustacia Vye, and his manipulation of Thomasin to incite jealousy in Eustacia, is known to Venn. Venn, who secretly loves Thomasin, attempts to meddle, hoping to convince Eustacia to permit Wildeve to marry Thomasin. However, his efforts prove fruitless. Clym Yeobright, Thomasin's cousin and the child of a stern widow also named Mrs. Yeobright, enters this complicated love triangle. Eustacia views Clym as her gateway from the oppressive heath and preemptively decides to fall for him, subsequently ending her liaison with Wildeve. Wildeve, now free, marries Thomasin. Eustacia and Clym are brought together by chance and her scheming, resulting in their marriage despite disapproval from Mrs. Yeobright. Wildeve, upon hearing of the marriage, starts yearning for Eustacia again, in spite of his wedded status to Thomasin. After marrying Eustacia, Clym grows distant from his mother, and soon enough, from his wife too. Eustacia's aspiration to relocate to Paris clashes with Clym's desire to start a school locally. Wildeve, now wealthy due to an inheritance, starts spending more time with the discontented Eustacia, a fact noted by the ever-watchful Venn. This illicit relationship culminates in a tragic incident, where Clym's mother succumbs to heat and a snakebite after being turned away by a panicking Eustacia, who feared being caught with Wildeve. The fallout from Mrs. Yeobright's death leads to the separation of Eustacia and Clym. In the height of a storm, as Eustacia plans to flee the heath with Wildeve's help, both she and Wildeve tragically drown. Venn, however, manages to save Clym. The story concludes with an eventual marriage between Thomasin and Venn, while Clym, affected by his trials and impaired eyesight, becomes a roving preacher, treated with skepticism by the local community.

book 1

"The Return of the Native" begins by showcasing Egdon Heath, a vast, somber, and windswept landscape. The heath is depicted as resilient and enduring, much like mankind. An elderly man stumbles upon a wagon driven by Diggory Venn, a reddleman, and discovers a sleeping young woman onboard. The reddleman later observes a symbol of solitude: a woman standing alone on the heath's highest point, Rainbarrow. She departs, and a group of locals gather to set a bonfire alight, a customary practice. They converse about the supposed marriage of Damon Wildeve and Thomasin Yeobright, an event slightly overshadowed by the disapproval of Thomasin's aunt, Mrs. Yeobright. The only remaining fire at the end of the gathering is at Mistover Knapp, Eustacia Vye's residence. The reddleman, seeking Mrs. Yeobright's house, interrupts the locals' dance. Soon after he leaves, Mrs. Yeobright herself arrives. Mrs. Yeobright and Olly Dowden chat about her initial opposition to her niece's marriage while returning home. They meet Diggory Venn who reveals Thomasin is the sleeping woman in his wagon. The anticipated wedding didn't materialize due to a glitch in the marriage license. Mrs. Yeobright, fearing disgrace, insists Wildeve should marry Thomasin, which he casually agrees to. Their serious conversation is disrupted by locals singing wedding tunes. The heroine, Eustacia Vye, reappears on Rainbarrow once it's abandoned. She scans the heath with a telescope and later receives a visit from Wildeve. Through their conversation, we discover their ongoing romantic affair and the fact that Wildeve abandoned Eustacia to marry Thomasin. Their conversation is filled with petty squabbles and manipulation. Eustacia is then described as a passionate romantic with "Pagan, full of nocturnal mysteries" eyes. She detests the heath and blames fate for her existence there. Johnny Nonsuch, a local boy, encounters Diggory Venn and spills the beans about Eustacia and Wildeve's secret love affair. Venn confirms this by eavesdropping on another conversation between Wildeve and Eustacia, where Wildeve suggests they elope to America. Venn who still loves Thomasin, tries to persuade Eustacia to let Wildeve marry Thomasin. Eustacia rebuffs him, expressing she's acting on her desires. Venn's encounter prompts Mrs. Yeobright to manipulate Wildeve into jealousy by hinting at a rival suitor for Thomasin. The trick works and Wildeve renews his love for Eustacia, who shows less interest as Wildeve seems less desirable now. The first section, "The Three Women," wraps up with news of Clym Yeobright's impending return.

book 2

Workers gather firewood near Captain Vye's house, engaging in discussion about Clym Yeobright's impending return from Paris, where he'd been working as a diamond merchant. Eustacia Vye overhears this and begins dreaming of a romantic relationship with Clym, prompted by a labourer's casual remark on their potential as a couple. Concurrently, Mrs. Yeobright and her niece, Thomasin, prepare for Clym’s arrival at Blooms-End. Mrs. Yeobright is preoccupied with the harm caused by Thomasin's drawn-out engagement to Damon Wildeve on their family's reputation. She deeply cares for Thomasin and observes that Wildeve's delay of their wedding has led Thomasin to fall out of love with him, a fact which Thomasin neither confirms nor denies. The Yeobrights head out to welcome Clym home, and Eustacia plots to get a glimpse of him, her curiosity sparked by her desire to find someone superior to Wildeve. She orchestrates a plan to meet him at the Yeobrights' Christmas celebration, where a play, or "mummery," is to be staged. She convinces Charley, a local worker, to let her take on his role of the Turkish Knight in the play about St. George. Disguised and performing, she catches sight of Clym, described by Hardy as a handsome young man whose exterior beauty is slowly eroding due to inner turmoil. Feeling suffocated by the festive atmosphere and exhilarated by Clym's proximity, Eustacia steps out for fresh air, where she encounters Clym who surmises that she's a woman impersonating a man's role. Encouraged by this encounter, Eustacia decides to intensify her feelings for Clym. However, she worries that Clym could fall for his attractive cousin, who lives with him at Blooms-End. In response, she sends a message to Wildeve via Diggory Venn, stating she will cease seeing him. Rejected by Eustacia, Wildeve, with the aim to preserve his dignity and provoke Eustacia’s jealousy, renews his promise to marry Thomasin. They finally get married, with Eustacia, surprisingly present at the church, giving away the bride, leaving Wildeve disconcerted.

book 3

Book 3, named "The Fascination," provides a deeper insight into the character of Clym Yeobright, a pensive and gloomy individual who merely endures life. Once a local celebrity due to his perceived potential, he now perplexes the villagers by staying in Egdon Heath. He reveals his dissatisfaction with his job as a diamond merchant in Paris and plans to open a school for local children, giving precedence to his love for the heath and its dwellers over his own financial growth. When Clym shares his plans with his mother, Mrs. Yeobright, she reacts with confusion and then anger, upset that her efforts to uplift him from his current circumstances have gone in vain. Their disagreement is interrupted by news of a local woman, Susan Nonsuch, stabbing Eustacia Vye, a mysterious woman believed to be a witch, with a knitting needle in church. Clym soon gets to interact with Eustacia when he assists locals in pulling out a bucket from the Vye well. He is captivated by Eustacia's beauty and starts visiting her at night, while spending his days reading for his prospective role as a teacher. Mrs. Yeobright disapproves strongly, thinking Clym is ruining his life for Eustacia and the heath. However, Clym proposes to Eustacia, who accepts, expressing her desire to leave the heath for Paris. Tensions escalate between Clym and Mrs. Yeobright over his career and relationship with Eustacia, resulting in Clym feeling unwelcome at home. He later plans to marry Eustacia and live in a secluded cottage on the heath until he is ready to set up his boarding school in Budmouth, a bustling port town. Clym moves out of his mother's house, who refuses to reconcile with him and declines to visit post-wedding. On Clym's wedding day, Mrs. Yeobright at her home is visited by Damon Wildeve, who is jealous of Eustacia's marriage. Damon tries to inquire about an "article" that Mrs. Yeobright is supposed to give to her niece, Thomasin. Mrs. Yeobright refuses to comply and sends Christian Cantle to deliver the inheritance money to Thomasin and Clym. Christian, however, ventures into a raffle competition and ends up gambling away the money to Damon. Diggory Venn challenges Damon to a dice match and wins back all the money. Mistaking all 100 guineas as Thomasin's inheritance, he gives her the entire amount, causing a mix-up.

book 4

During summer, Clym Yeobright and Eustacia live comfortably in their cottage on the heath. Although happy, Eustacia still harbors dreams of moving to Paris. Clym, however, wants to become a schoolteacher on the heath. This source of conflict is exacerbated when Clym's mother, Mrs. Yeobright, feels slighted for not being acknowledged for the money she sent Clym. She believes Eustacia's former lover, Damon Wildeve, is trying to win Eustacia back with the money. This misunderstanding causes friction among all parties involved, even after it is cleared up. Adding to their troubles, Clym's vision deteriorates due to excessive studying, forcing him to take up work as a furze-cutter. Eustacia is displeased with his lowly job and cannot understand Clym's contentment with manual labor. Their differences escalate, causing their love for each other to wane. In an attempt to distract herself, Eustacia attends a country dance where she encounters Damon Wildeve. Eustacia shares her marital unhappiness with Damon and they return together to the heath. Their clandestine meeting is interrupted by Diggory Venn and Clym. Diggory begins to intimidate Damon to prevent him from visiting Eustacia. He also convinces Mrs. Yeobright to reconcile with Clym and Eustacia. Mrs. Yeobright sets out to make amends with her son and Eustacia under the scorching summer heat. She is disheartened when she recognizes her son working as a furze-cutter. As she approaches their house, she sees Clym and another man, Damon Wildeve, enter. Damon, scared away from visiting Eustacia at night by Diggory, decides to visit her during the day. Eustacia and Damon express their dissatisfaction with their current situations to each other. Meanwhile, Mrs. Yeobright knocks on the door but is not let in by Eustacia due to her fear of being caught with Damon. This misunderstanding leads Mrs. Yeobright to believe she was intentionally ignored. Distraught, Mrs. Yeobright trudges home across the heath and collapses from exhaustion. She is found by Clym who is unaware of her earlier visit. Eustacia does not disclose this information to him. While Clym is seeking help for his mother, Eustacia meets with Wildeve who has recently inherited a large sum of money. This fortune could potentially make Eustacia's dream of moving to Paris a reality. Their conversation, however, is interrupted by the news of Mrs. Yeobright's death. Her last words, "a broken-hearted woman cast-off by her son," reveal the depth of her despair.

book 5

Engulfed by guilt and sorrow following his mother's demise, Clym Yeobright delves into a state of despair and frailty. Eustacia Vye, haunted by her involvement in the unfortunate event, finds companionship in Damon Wildeve. As Clym slowly unravels the truth about his mother's death, he squarely blames Eustacia. Despite her attempts to clarify, she conceals the identity of the man who visited her that day. Tensions rise, leading to Eustacia's return to Mistover Knapp under her grandfather’s care. There, she is looked after by Charley, a servant who adores her and even safeguards her from her suicidal thoughts. Charley, in an endeavor to lift Eustacia's spirits, unintentionally signals Damon with a bonfire. He meets Eustacia, they profess their love, and devise a plan to escape to Paris. Meanwhile, Clym, still cherishing feelings for Eustacia, pens a letter proposing reconciliation. Thomasin, Clym’s cousin, senses a brewing romance between Eustacia and Damon, leading to a heated exchange. Eustacia signals Damon to leave the following night. Clym's letter arrives late and is never delivered to Eustacia. Eustacia escapes the house, conflicted about her decision to elope with Damon. Susan Nonsuch, a superstitious woman, works on a charm against Eustacia, filling the air with an ominous feeling. Clym, anxiously awaiting a reply to his letter, learns from Thomasin and Captain Vye about Eustacia's disappearance and Damon's plan to elope with her. Fear-stricken, Clym ventures into the stormy heath in search of Eustacia, soon followed by Thomasin. They stumble upon Diggory Venn, who assists them in their quest. Their search culminates at the Quiet Woman Inn, where Clym and Damon hear a splash in the nearby weir. A daring rescue mission ensues, with Diggory pulling Clym and Damon from the stormy water. The locals discover Eustacia's body, confirming her and Damon's death. A guilt-ridden Clym survives, blaming himself for the tragic outcome.

book 6

Thomasin, devastated by her husband Damon Wildeve's sudden death, moves to Blooms-End to live with Clym. Clym, likewise distraught over his wife Eustacia's demise, retreats into solitude. As time passes, Thomasin starts recovering from her grief, finding joy in her baby girl. Two years after Damon and Eustacia's deaths, Diggory Venn returns, no longer a reddleman but a dairy owner. He gets Thomasin's consent to erect a maypole near Blooms-End. One evening, Thomasin sees Diggory waiting by the maypole, looking for a lost glove. She soon finds out that it's her glove. Their conversation turns into flirtation. Clym, fearing that Thomasin's childhood feelings for him may resurface, decides to propose to her out of respect for his late mother's wishes, despite his own faded capacity for love. But before he can, Thomasin asks him about marrying Diggory. Initially, Clym is taken aback and almost advises against it, respecting his mother's belief that Diggory wasn't suitable for Thomasin. Eventually, Thomasin persuades Clym that Diggory's status as a dairy owner makes the marriage more acceptable, and the pair get engaged. In the last section, local workers Fairway, Christian Cantle, Sam, and others prepare a gift for the new couple's wedding. The celebration is joyful, but Clym, still mourning Eustacia, doesn't attend and instead walks to Eustacia's previous home, Mistover Knapp. There, he meets Charley, a servant who loved Eustacia, and gives him a strand of her hair. Back at Blooms-End, Charley describes the festivities to Clym. After the wedding, Diggory and Thomasin leave for Diggory's house, leaving Clym alone in the house still haunted by his mother's memory. He takes on the role of a travelling preacher, teaching morality to local peasants. Despite mixed reactions to his sermons, Clym's tragic figure earns him sympathy.

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