The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapters 1-3

Summary

Eustacia overhears her grandfather and Humphrey and Sam discussing the kind of life Clym Yeobright has been living in Paris. Humphrey suggests, when Captain Vye leaves, that Eustacia and Clym would make a fine couple. The conversation sets her to daydreaming about Clym, and she walks down to look at the Yeobright house.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Yeobright and Thomasin are preparing for Clym's arrival: getting apples from the loft of the fuel house and gathering holly on the heath. Thomasin refuses to answer Mrs. Yeobright's question about whether she still loves Wildeve and makes the older woman promise not to tell Clym of her troubles.

On the night Clym is to arrive, Eustacia waits on the heath for a glimpse of him as he goes by. When he does, with Mrs. Yeobright and Thomasin, Eustacia is unable to see him but can hear his voice. This causes her to dream an unusual dream about him. For the next few days, she goes out in the hope of meeting him but does not.

Analysis

As early as chapter 3 of Book First, Clym's coming home for Christmas has been mentioned. Eustacia is made to hear this news rather late and shows little reaction to it, since he left before she came to Mistover Knap. Several times in the first book, however, she is said to long for a man who, unlike Wildeve, is really equal to her. In these chapters, foreshadowing of Clym's coming and his effect on Eustacia's life is frequently used. She is made to overhear a conversation about him, she thinks and dreams about him, she walks near his house, she waits to see him when he arrives; Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright prepare to welcome him home. The movement of the plot is entirely in the direction of Clym.

Earlier in the novel, events and authorial descriptions make it clear that Eustacia is a romantic. Among other things, she wants "to be loved to madness." Here, this side of her is exploited. . The overheard conversation causes her to think that the soon-to-arrive Clym is "like a man coming from heaven." She can think about nothing else, and she actually waits outside his house, hopeful of a glimpse of him. Paris, to her, is "the center and vortex of the fashionable world," and the fact of Clym coming from there strikes her as overwhelmingly exotic. Hearing Clym's voice as he passes is enough to provide Eustacia with a remarkable dream, in which a mysterious male figure appears to her in "silver armor." As Hardy puts it, she is "half in love with a vision." She has fixed in her mind a romantic image of what Clym means to her long before she actually meets him. And the way by which she does meet him in the next chapters, by taking the part of one of the young men in the traditional Christmas play, is yet another instance of this same side of her character.

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