The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapters 7-8

Summary

When Eustacia next meets Venn, she finds out that he is not really going to marry Thomasin and agrees to encourage the young woman's marriage to Wildeve. Venn volunteers to deliver a letter for Eustacia to Wildeve on Rainbarrow that night, and after reading its contents Wildeve is determined to marry Thomasin to make Eustacia suffer. Encouraged by Eustacia's remark, Venn calls on Thomasin to ask her to marry him, but Wildeve has got there first and already has her promise.

Thomasin is firm in her decision to marry Wildeve, partly because of a letter from Clym, away visiting friends, who is shocked by hearing rumors of scandal in the relationship between his cousin and the innkeeper. Thomasin does not want Mrs. Yeobright to give her away, and she prefers the marriage to be over and done with before Clym returns. On the day of her wedding, shortly after she has gone off to meet Wildeve at the church, Clym returns home. When he hears an account of the abortive earlier attempt at marriage, Clym is annoyed at his mother for withholding news of Thomasin's affairs. He finally decides to walk to the church, but before he can Venn arrives with a report of the wedding.

Venn tells them that Thomasin and Wildeve are indeed married and that Eustacia gave her away. But he does not tell them that Eustacia was there at his request.

Analysis

As he did with the marriages of Eustacia to Clym and Thomasin to Venn later in the novel, Hardy describes the marriage of Thomasin to Wildeve by report, not directly or dramatically. His reason for handling this important event in such a manner is to allow the character Venn to describe the wedding to those most vitally interested in it, Clym and Mrs. Yeobright. The reddleman, of course, is again acting in his role of connector. Immediately, he has caused Eustacia to be present at the ceremony. Hardy may also have handled the marriage as he does to emphasize the reasons for it and the consequences of it rather than to describe the formal or social ceremony itself.

Certainly, the occasion of the ceremony is full of irony, as are many other scenes in the novel. Thomasin and Wildeve being married in the presence only of Eustacia and Venn is part of the irony. Another is that Eustacia should be giving Thomasin away. Eustacia is obviously "giving" Thomasin to Wildeve since his attraction as an object of her desire "to be loved to madness" has been dimmed by the appearance of Clym.

If structure is thought of as indicated by a curve describing the rise and fall of expectation, Book Second shows the curve still on the rise. Clym appears on Egdon Heath, presumably on vacation from a reputedly successful career as manager for a diamond firm in Paris. To Eustacia he represents more of a man than Wildeve, someone who is equal to her view of life and her ambitions. She disposes of her earlier lover by marrying him off to Thomasin. For Thomasin this marriage is a seal of respectability which will please her aunt and the community. For Wildeve it is mixed blessing, with the bitter taste of revenge against Eustacia for turning him away.

These events and relationships, to which structure gives shape, once again illustrate that somber theme of the novel. The certainty of failure can be seen lurking in the questionable motives of Thomasin and Wildeve in marrying and in the romantic image of Clym quickly taking shape in Eustacia's mind. The curve is rising; but it will also fall.

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