The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 4: Chapters 1-2

Summary

Clym and Eustacia live a secluded life in the house at Alderworth, and he resumes his study, though she still hopes he will eventually take her to Paris. Mrs. Yeobright, puzzled because Clym has never acknowledged receipt of the guineas and then learning from Christian that Wildeve won them in gambling, visits Eustacia while she is at Mistover Knap. Eustacia misunderstands the older woman's questions, and they quarrel bitterly. When Eustacia tells Clym of the occasion, she brings up Paris again.

Quite unexpectedly, Clym experiences severe eye trouble, an "acute inflammation" caused by too many hours of reading, and is told that it may be months before it clears up. Eustacia is greatly depressed, but Clym decides to take up furze (thick underbrush) cutting with Hymphrey. On an occasion when Eustacia discovers Clym singing while he works, they have a conversation that is bitter under the surface, both seeming to admit they no longer feel about each other as they once did.

Analysis

Just as the gambling scene is a dramatic symbol, so also is Clym's loss of eyesight. Just as the world for the determined gamblers is reduced to the size of the flat stone, so Clym's world is now literally limited: "His daily life was of a curious microscopic sort, his whole world being limited to a circuit of a few feet from his person." Clym, who has come home from the great world of Paris to the smaller world of Egdon Heath, finds himself in an even smaller one. Yet, his aim in coming home has been to discover what is for him the greater world of service. It is well to remember, of course, that though Clym's injured eyesight is a symbol, it is also a fact. This is an illustration of the way in which any novel or any work of art operates on more than one level simultaneously. So also is the gambling scene a fact or Rainbarrow or the moon or the heath.

The consequences of Venn's mistake about the 100 guineas are seen to begin in these chapters. Thinking that Wildeve has the money, Mrs. Yeobright takes the wrong approach with Eustacia, resulting in a sharp quarrel. Before this encounter, Eustacia intended, at Clym's urging, to call on Mrs. Yeobright in the attempt to establish some sort of relationship with her. Because of the quarrel, Eustacia, in turn, brings up the subject of Paris, a hope she has never let die, though she admits Clym has made no promise to take her there. This hope will always stand between her and her husband. Later, it is wishful thinking about the realization of this hope that leads her to consider Wildeve's offer to help her escape the heath.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How does Clym respond to his mother’s death?




Quiz