Critical Essays Style of The Return of the Native

Much has been said, pro and con, about Hardy's style in his fiction. It is easy to say he has a clumsy style or an adequate style or an intermittently effective style. A demonstration of some particular aspect of his style is perhaps more useful.

Hardy's narrative style makes use of several kinds of imagery, including a number of figures of speech using analogies drawn from the setting of his story. Consider such a sampling as the following: "Eustacia's journey was at first as vague in direction as that of thistledown in the wind"; "the party had marched in trail, like a traveling flock of sheep; that is to say, the strongest first, the weak and young behind"; "[Grandfer Cantle] also began to sing, in the voice of a bee up a flue"; "Grandfer Cantle meanwhile staring at [Christian] as a hen stares at the duck she has hatched"; "in her winter dress, as now, [Eustacia] was like the tiger-beetle, which, when observed in dull situations, seems to be of the quietest neutral color, but under a full illumination blazes with dazzling splendor"; "[the settle] is, to the hearths of old-fashioned cavernous fireplaces, what the last belt of trees is to the exposed country estate, or the north wall to the garden"; "[Clym] longed for death, as a field laborer longs for the shade"; "Fairway gave a circular motion to the rope, as if he were stirring a batter"; "[Eustacia] had entered the dance from the troubled hours of her late life as one might enter a brilliant chamber after a night walk in a wood"; "the leaves of the hollyhocks hung like half-closed umbrellas." In the first of these, the term carrying the analogy comes from nature; in the second, from the characters' daily activities on the heath.

In short, Hardy's imagery is appropriate to the world of his story and effective in conveying what, at a given moment, he wishes to show, not merely say.

Pop Quiz!

How does Clym respond to his mother’s death?


What does it mean to be refractory? (From Dickens' Great Expectations)

Back to Top