The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Book 5: Chapters 7-8

Summary

Deciding on the next evening, the sixth, to leave, Eustacia signals Wildeve as planned. When the letter for her from Clym arrives, she is in her bedroom, and Captain Vye doesn't give it to her because he assumes she is asleep. When he finally realizes she has left the house, it is too late. Though it is now raining, Eustacia determines to go ahead with her plans. She goes to the top of Rainbarrow, and thinking of what she is doing and how little it promises, she is in despair. Meanwhile, Susan Nunsuch, having seen Eustacia earlier in the evening about the time Johnny says he is feeling even more ill than he has been, makes an effigy of Eustacia in wax, sticks it with pins, and burns it in a fire.

Summary

Deciding on the next evening, the sixth, to leave, Eustacia signals Wildeve as planned. When the letter for her from Clym arrives, she is in her bedroom, and Captain Vye doesn't give it to her because he assumes she is asleep. When he finally realizes she has left the house, it is too late. Though it is now raining, Eustacia determines to go ahead with her plans. She goes to the top of Rainbarrow, and thinking of what she is doing and how little it promises, she is in despair. Meanwhile, Susan Nunsuch, having seen Eustacia earlier in the evening about the time Johnny says he is feeling even more ill than he has been, makes an effigy of Eustacia in wax, sticks it with pins, and burns it in a fire.

Clym hopes Eustacia will come to him even though the night is stormy, but he is disappointed when Thomasin instead calls. She tells him she is sure Eustacia and Wildeve are going to run off together. Captain Vye also calls, recounting for Clym the story of Eustacia's thoughts of suicide with his pistols. After both men leave, Thomasin waits in Clym's house as long as she can, and then she starts off for the Quiet Woman Inn with her child. Losing her way, she comes upon Venn, who goes with her to guide her to her destination.

Analysis

The heath folk's superstitious beliefs are dramatized in a scene where Susan Nunsuch, long suspicious that Eustacia is a witch and is working evil on her son Johnny, makes a wax doll of Eustacia, pierces it many times with pins, and burns it in the fire. The Lord's Prayer said backward is an incantation which, as Hardy remarks, is "usual in proceedings for obtaining unhallowed assistance against an enemy." Sticking an image full of pins is common in voodoo, too.

Even as the image of Eustacia is melting in Susan's fire, the young woman herself is "melting" on Rainbarrow, that symbolic projection which is the highest point on the heath. The barrow has meant much to Eustacia: from it she has viewed the heath, both nature and man. On it, in effect, she takes her last look at the world; even as at the end of the novel we see Clym practicing his newfound vocation on it. Eustacia just before death stands upon a monument to death. She looks at the world and sees nothing good: "I was capable of much; but I have been injured and blighted and crushed by things beyond my control!" She cannot return to Clym, she thinks, and Wildeve is not worthy of her. The earlier intimations of suicide now pay off by letting the reader see what Eustacia will do.

The storm on the heath is also a heavy symbol. Writing of Eustacia, Hardy says: "Never was harmony more perfect than that between the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the world without." This works for Eustacia and for other characters as well. . The plot shows a confused pattern of people moving helter-skelter over the heath. With the storm comes the element of melodrama, to be climaxed by the deaths in the stream near the weir. The storm rages as it did in many nineteenth-century novels: significantly but unbelievably.

No one's presence is shown more at random during this night than Eustacia's. After her appearance on the barrow, she is never shown directly again until her body is glimpsed in the stream by Wildeve and pulled out by Venn. Her movements are known only by hint and report; Venn himself almost sees her on the heath. In these chapters, too, another of Hardy's coincidences occur: the business with the letter from Clym to Eustacia. By chance she never receives it.

Ironically, then, Eustacia goes off to Rainbarrow and her death without knowing that Clym has asked her to return, not wholeheartedly, to be sure, but he has asked. It is too late. The avalanche of events rush to their conclusion in spite of what any character does, or at least this is what Hardy intends to show.

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