Themes In Thomas Hardys Return Essay, Research Paper
Page1 The Return Of The Native
Numerous themes run through Thomas Hardys novel The Return of the Native. They serve as a means of collecting together the different ideas that Hardy wanted to incorporate into the novel, and introduce the main plots. One of the novels central themes is coincidence. It links to most of the other themes and many of the events in the book come about because of a coincidence. An example of this is when Captain Vye happens to meet Diggory Venn and he reveals that he is carrying a woman in his van. The Captains denunciation that it is “That girl of Blooms-End” prompts him to relay this gossip to Eustasia, which sets in motion a chain of events which shape the rest of the plot. Another such instance is when Eustasia happens to pass Susan Nonsuch’s cottage whilst Johnny is ill, just as he exclaims “mother I do feel so bad” Susan at that moment looks up and sees Eustasia, causing her superstitious mind to assume she is responsible. However Hardy implies that some of the events put down to coincidence are actually deliberate. Diggory Venns frequent appearances throughout the novel always seem to coincide with moments when Thomasin Yeobright is in trouble. As is later revealed Venn is a rejected suitor of hers, yet far from being discouraged he has vowed to ensure her happiness, even if it does not involve his own, and as such interferes when ever he thinks it is at stake.
Coincidence is closely related to the theme of fate, which runs throughout the book. When Eustasia, Wildeve and Clym are in the water, the two former, past lovers drown in their pursuit of each other, yet Clym survives, to begin a new life as a preacher. This could be interpreted as fate, as could Susan Nonsuch’s burning of the effigy of Eustasia, shortly before she drowns. Venn continually attempts to alter fate by his interference in Thomasin’s life, in an attempt ensure her happiness. The death of Mrs Yeobright too is perhaps the result of a twist of fate. If Eustasia had not presumed Clym had opened the door to her she would not have been out on the heath in such an emotionally drained state in order to get bitten by the adder, something which in it’s self is an unusual occurrence, even the native heath folk have “only once seen such a bite”. The naive heath folk themselves are very superstitious, and there are countless examples of this throughout the novel, such as Christian Cantle’s vision of the ” red ghost ” (Diggory Venn) and Susan Nonsuch stabbing Eustasia because she thought she was bewitching her son. This superstition causes them to attribute certain events to supernatural forces which they believe are responsible for any trouble. Eustasia’s mysterious beauty and odd behaviour for example, leads her to be accused of witchcraft. They hold unshakeable beliefs that elements such as witchcraft exist. This naivity is often the cause of much trouble, which Hardy is quick to point out. What they don’t understand they fear, something that to a lesser degree still applies today: people still believe in ghosts and witches, and prejudice against people different from themselves.
Love is important in the novel, because it shapes the actions of most of the main characters. Eustasia’s greatest wish is to be ” loved to madness ” something which she will go to almost any lengths to achieve. She is even prepared to jeopardise the future of an innocent woman (Thomasin) in order to keep Wildeve whom she believes she loves. Yet Eustasia’s love is fickle, as her marriage to Clym reveals, her real interest was in escaping the heath and going to Paris, which she saw was possible through Clym. Once all hopes of this have been
dashed, and a coincidence puts Wildeve back on the scene, she is quick to take advantage. Wildeve too loses his appeal once she realises she is no longer competing for his affection. Perhaps Hardy is commenting on the fickleness of human nature. Marriage is usually associated with love in the twenty first century, but as Thomasin and Wildeve’s union shows, this was not always the case. Although it is implied that Thomasin did love Wildeve at some point, in the end she marries him to preserve her family’s good name. Wildeve seems to be more concerned with getting his hands on Thomasin’s inheritance money, his real love is for Eustasia, as is shown by the way he goes running to her at the slightest opportunity, leaving his wife alone, and the way in which he rashly jumps in to the weir to save her when she falls in. Although Clym and Eustasia originally marry for love, Clym is quick to doubt Eustasia’s integrity when the events surrounding his mothers death come to light, and she in turn is quick to desert him and run off with Wildeve. Both Wildeve and Eustasia desert their partners in their hour of need. When Mrs Yeobright is dying they both witness it, but as both are in some way responsible neither comforts their grieving spouse. Clym chooses his mother over Eustasia after his initial rebellion, his anger at her accidental death causes him to blame his wife, resulting in an argument that is never forgiven. To a reader of the eighteenth century when the novel was written, marriage for money or status was commonplace, although people did not necessarily agree with it. To a modern day reader marrying for reasons other than love are almost unheard of, mainly because women no longer depend on men for support, something which they would have needed to do in Hardys day.
Money and status play a vital part in the plot, Mrs Yeobright objects initially to Thomasin and Wildeve’s proposed marriage because Wildeve is of lower status than Thomasin, and she also points out Venn’s lower status when he voices his love for Thomasin. Eustasia too objects to a union with Wildeve because she is of higher rank, yet when he inherits a large sum of money she changes her mind. Money is used as a weapon by Wildeve, he knows Eustasia wants to leave Egdon Heath and uses his money to tempt her. Mrs Yeobright uses money to try to bring about a reconciliation with Clym by sending him his half of the inheritance money in advance. Money is seen as a way of furthering status, but also as a means of escape Eustasia and Wildeve both desire it, because to them the only way of escaping from the heath is through obtaining enough money to go abroad. Money also causes a great deal of trouble in the wrong hands, such as when Christian Cantle gambles away the inheritance money. Although it is retrieved by the Reddleman, by giving it all to Thomasin, he unwittingly makes matters worse. This is still a problem in the twenty first century, money and the power it wields is still at the heart of many disputes, and people will still go to almost any lengths to obtain it.
In conclusion many of the themes Hardy incorporated into The Return of the Native are just as relevant today as they were when the novel was written. Money still dictates the actions of many people, and Love still shapes many of our destiny’s as it has always done and although to a lesser extent, themes such as status are still valid, after all we still have an aristocracy. Even superstition has not been fully outlawed.