Thomas Hardy, a writer of nineteenth century society, has created an everlasting impact on its readers through his most profound and lively characters with varied dimensions in personality. He gave his characters a touch of realism with an in-depth intensity to misunderstand their real nature and their real intentions in life. They are always finding themselves in a struggle with their own desires and circumstances. Fate plays the most crucial yet evil role in many events in their lives with reflection of impassive attitude and tragic consequences.
His “The Return of the Native” is also a tragedy unfolding many deepen aspects of his characters’ with the settings itself revealing impending damage or tragedy waiting to happen. It appears hidden beneath the wastelands of Egdon Heath number of secrets aspiring to be opened. “It is a place of long life and of sudden death, of fertile spring and short, vivid summer.”(Flowers & Spring, 19) Edgon Heath’s importance lies in the way it affected the personalities of Eustacia and Wildeve, who feel themselves depressed in these lonely places.
For Hardy, life is painful and full of agony and is clearly seen in the eyes of protagonists.
The plot of “The Return of the Native” is set in context to the passionate and romantic zeal of Eustacia who took her to a tragic end. “It is the force of circumstances-the malignant power of Edgon Heath to dwarf and thwart the aspiring soul –that derives Eustacia Vye to irretrievable disaster”. (Flowers & Spring, 121)
Hardy adopted Victorian style in “The Return of the Native” with its detailed description of the story with many references pertaining to classical and scriptural style.
Initially, its theme raised the eyebrows in the society but later the same theme became most popular among readers and critics alike.
The theme owes its popularity to its originality and very nifty; the novel contains various moral truths that were the part of the society. All the characters have appeared to be born and grown in relationship with their environment and changes in weather of Heath corresponds to the inner turmoil of characters. With Eustacia Vye as part of Heath, Diggory Venn too appears to be born out of the muddy earth and the name Wildeve itself suggests his attributes to be born out of Heath’s blowing winds.
The story revolves around Eustacia who Hardy describes as the most tempestuous lady desperate for passionate love denied to her in the vast arid lands of the Dorset County with only his grandfather as her companion. She is feeling very dejected by her boring life and is looking for an ideal man with whom she could spend the rest of her life. By crafting Eustacia as the most voracious character, “The Return of The Native“ became yet another story in a family of genre of most sensational works of Hardy. Besides sensation of suspense, more important is the creation of melodrama and behavior in the extreme extent but it’s a novel that has both modest as well as honest appeal.
The story raises the question how the free will of the people and fate can go side by side. Eustacia’s passionate desire to marry person of fortune brings her into contact with Clym and ultimately marries him. But fate has something else in store for her; Clym Yeobright’s wanted to open a school in native country and in his pursuit he got himself blinded and they had to live in a hut meanwhile Wildeve too inherited maximum sum of money and they began to meet regularly.
This meeting became a cause for the biggest tragedy ever that could happen in their lives. First Clym’s mother Mrs Yeobright died due to heat and snakebite, as she was not allowed by Eustacia to enter into house. Later Eustacia died due to drowning and Wildeve too embraced death in his effort to save Eustacia. But Diggory Venn saved Clym only to leave him behind with blind eyes and as a wandering preacher.
The story has a tragic ending but we can also see certain note of hope and optimism as Diggory Venn got his true love Thomasin. The whole story shows how human beings in their desire to obtain pleasure show incapacity to change for right actions leading to gravest tragedy. Hardy’s message is quite clear: happiness for human beings is very short lived, and they feel themselves at-least fortunate if they could at-least avoid pains.
Amidst the conventional countryside, Hardy portrayed the changes in Victorian society his protagonists wanted to see in their lives, yet he too did not deny the errors of these uneducated and unsophisticated country folks who were equally known for their loyalty as well as prejudice. (Flowers & Spring, 21)
“The Return of The Native” was Hardy’s sixth novel and when it first appeared in the serial Belgravia, its subject raised controversy. But soon it became one of the most popular novels with its popularity lying in its inquisitive derive to probe most intricate issues involving human beings-disillusioned love affairs and societal prejudices crushing passionate desires. Hardy is quite clear when he says that no one can escape the destiny and those who would try to escape it would end up having tragic consequences’. For D.H Lawrence, this novel delves into the ways communities handle their misfortunes.
Many feel its ending is not clear even though there was tragedy in the end, yet Hardy gave it happy ending with the marriage of Diggory Venn and Thomasin. With this ending, Hardy left the readers to comprehend themselves the conclusion and it is quite true in real life too. If there is a tragedy in the lives of the people, there are many who are happy too. By making the ending of the novel uncertain and vague, Hardy states the life is also very uncertain and vague.
“The Return of the Native” is very interesting to read and fully describes with intensity Hardy’s genre in describing his characters. With this story, Hardy deviated from his conventional style of being a tragic writer to bring forth happy ending.