The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 4: Chapters 3-4

Summary

Determined to fight off her depression, Eustacia decides to go to a "gipsying," or dance, in East Egdon. Envious of the young people dancing, and later, surprised by Wildeve's presence there, she consents to dance with her former lover and enjoys it more than she can understand. Allowing Wildeve to walk part way home with her, she encounters Clym and Venn, though Wildeve leaves her before Clym can see him.

Sure he has seen Wildeve with Eustacia, Venn hurries to the inn and learns from questioning Thomasin that it was her husband. Thereupon, Venn keeps watch on Clym's house and on several occasions frustrates Wildeve's loitering outside the house and trying to communicate with Eustacia. Venn also calls on Mrs. Yeobright, urging her to establish relations with both Clym and Thomasin for the good of all. She decides to forgive Clym and call on him. At the same time, Clym tells Eustacia he must do something to improve relations with his mother.

Analysis

The gipsying at East Egdon Eustacia attends is another characteristic part of the setting of the heath. Hardy presents it as a self-contained experience set apart from ordinary life: "A whole village-full of sensuous emotion, scattered abroad all the year long, surged here in a focus for an hour. The forty hearts of those waving couples were beating as they had not done since, twelve months before, they had come together in similar jollity. For the time Paganism was revived in their hearts, the pride of life was all in all, and they adored none other than themselves." A footnote to this description is the repeated comments, by Hardy and through his characters, about the indifference to churchgoing on the part of the heath dwellers.

In her present frame of mind, annoyed with Clym and longing for Paris, Eustacia fits easily into this atmosphere with Wildeve, so easily that it frightens her. She experiences, like the others, the feelings Hardy described in the quotation given above.

As elsewhere, Hardy here foreshadows an important event to come in the story: Eustacia's suicide. Eustacia is thinking of her situation with Clym in the little cottage on the heath: "To Eustacia the situation seemed such a mockery of her hopes that death appeared the only door of relief if the satire of Heaven should go much further." She is getting desperate, though she has been married only a short time. Her view of what she ought to be doing comes into sharper and sharper focus even as the chance for realizing it quickly recedes. Eustacia decides she'll be "bitterly merry, and ironically gay" and will "laugh in derision." She then goes to the gipsying.

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