The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 4: Chapters 7-8

Summary

Though Eustacia objects, fearful that he will find out what she has done, Clym is determined to waste no more time in going to see his mother. On the way, he discovers her prostrate and carries her to a hut not far from Blooms-End. When he returns with help, they discover she has been bitten by an adder, and they decide that until a doctor can be brought, the only thing to do is to use the old remedy of treating her with the fat of another adder.

Meanwhile, Eustacia, waiting impatiently at home, starts out to meet Clym but is halted momentarily by the arrival of Captain Vye, with news that Wildeve has inherited eleven thousand pounds. Thinking of Wildeve in a new light, Eustacia starts for Blooms-End, only to meet the man who occupies her thoughts. After Wildeve describes what he plans to do with the money and they are about to part, they come upon the group at the hut. They conceal themselves behind the hut and learn that Mrs. Yeobright is dying. Both Clym and Thomasin are there, with the heath folk, and after Mrs. Yeobright dies, Johnny Nunsuch repeats the remark about Clym that his mother made earlier in the child's presence.

Analysis

Each book in the novel ends with a dramatic event partly as the result of the necessity Hardy felt to satisfy the demands of serial publication. The reader must be kept interested from month to month, and this was one way to do so.

The scene of Mrs. Yeobright's death, the dramatic incident with which this book ends, is full of irony: she is surrounded by those people who have unwittingly made possible the conditions for her being bitten by the adder. Clym has delayed in carrying out his desire to reconcile with his mother as soon as possible; Eustacia does not open the door to her, thinking that Clym will surely wake up and do so; Wildeve appears at Clym's house at the wrong moment and causes Eustacia to hesitate over whether or not to admit Mrs. Yeobright. All of them have reasons for what they do; yet, the woman lies dead.

This as well as the now falling curve by which the structure of the novel is described (falling because, for instance, Clym's eyesight fails, Clym and Eustacia begin to feel alienated from each other, and Mrs. Yeobright dies) once more embodies the theme of the novel. This theme — to repeat, man living in an indifferent, if not hostile, universe — is also shown directly in other places in these chapters: in Eustacia's refusing to accept blame for not letting Mrs. Yeobright in but instead placing it upon "the shoulders of some indistinct, colossal Prince of the World, who [has] framed her situation and [rules] her lot"; in Wildeve's unexpected inheritance, a large sum of money to a man whose worth is at least questioned by almost all the characters in the story.

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