“The Return of The Native” — Thomas Hardy

“The Return of The Native” — Thomas Hardy

*spoilers: DO NOT READ ON IF UNPREPARED*

It makes sense to start with a cheery slightly less hard[y]-hitting* post, as it’s only going to go downhill from here (classic novels tend to be depressing, there’s just something so thrilling about all that interminable groaning and gratuitous death) and so “The Return of the Native” was selected as the natural choice. Yes, three of the main characters die, but not the nice ones, so it’s fine. A Tho-must read.**

Brief Synopsis:

The bewitching Eustacia Vye (what does it say about you if a literary character makes you feel really bad about yourself?) runs riot through the village of Egdon Heath, entrancing all the men (despite the fact that she’s a REALLY HORRIBLE PERSON), and generally spreads an atmosphere of guilt/uncontrollable sexual tension wherever she goes. There’s a constant feeling that she might be on the point of reforming at any moment, but despite having married the local heartthrob, she never does. And then kills herself. For long (and incredibly beautiful, but still, LONG) descriptions of the moor/heath (see below), this is the book for you. No but seriously, lots of heath.

Small Point(s):

♥ What is even the difference between a moor and the heath? I nodded studiously at every mention, and hastily looked it up at the end, but Google didn’t have the answer.

♥ I read Clym as ‘CLIM’ the ENTIRE TIME. Or am I a fool and is that the right pronunciation? It just doesn’t work as a nickname for Clement, you know?

The Big Scoop:

I felt that Damon and Thomasin’s relationship wasn’t fully given the opportunity to shine, particularly as Hardy began the book with Damon’s semi-rejection of Thomasin and then never quite followed it up. Despite the constant emphasis on her poor choice of husband, there didn’t seem to be an in-depth description of what exactly went on at home (and let’s be honest, we really wanted one, if only to know just what it was about Damon that made him so desirable? I’ve got my money on him being a cracking joketeller, which is why he’s so depressing all the rest of the time: something along the lines of “Hey Tamsie? I just hilariously lost your share of the family fortune… Just joking, yeah, your brother’s part is gone too. When’s supper?”) until right at the end when she relates how she followed him outside to see where he goes on his nocturnal excursions. Slightly unrealistic that she wouldn’t have done it before, but you know what, we can deal with it. And hey, who doesn’t love a –comparatively– happy ending? (Although apparently Hardy didn’t want Diggory and Thomasin to end up together because it wasn’t in their characters. What a party pooper really dedicated writer that man is.)

What I really appreciated was the presentation of Eustacia as being just…human. Yes, she is incredibly beautiful, but she also is unashamedly herself; who hasn’t wanted something less when there is no competition for it? Who hasn’t fallen in love just with the idea of someone, only to be disappointed by the reality? She took what she wanted without apology. Not a very pleasant reality, perhaps, but a reality nonetheless. Okay, Hardy killed her for it but she seized the day etc. etc. blah blah blah she’s a “goddess”, we get it.

Rating?

A definite 7 out of 10, possibly 8. I enjoyed it so unbelievably much, but I couldn’t connect with the main character (call me old-fashioned) and —oh Hardy, thou most sage wordsmith, how I hate to admit you are right!— the happiness of Mr. and Mrs. Venn, with the full consent and approval of the guilt-stricken and distinctly testy Clym, did seem a little incongruous considering everyone else (exaggeration) died. I revelled in their happiness, don’t get me wrong, but a little more needlessly protracted suffering wouldn’t have gone amiss.

To finish, the words of Thomas Hardy himself:–

“I wish I had just made Eustacia a nicer person.” ***

*Judgement-free and puntastic zone here, no shame.

**You know you love it.

***If you looked down here for that one, we are sad to inform you that you officially have no sense of humour. I have had it up to here *gestures wildly at the screen* with types like you. GET OUT, ROGUE.

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