Summary and Analysis
When Venn calls on Eustacia and is unable to persuade her to help Thomasin, he plays his trump card of telling Eustacia that he has overheard her and Wildeve. The more Venn tries to argue her out of her relationship with Wildeve, the more determined Eustacia is to maintain it. Defeated here, Venn offers himself to Mrs. Yeobright as a suitor for Thomasin, asserting that he has loved her longer than Wildeve; but Mrs. Yeobright rejects his offer.
Mrs. Yeobright, in turn, tells Wildeve that another suitor is interested in her niece. Refusing to be hurried into a commitment, Wildeve rushes off to call on Eustacia, wanting her to decide right away if she will accept his offer to go off with him. She will not do so, now wondering if she really wants a man that a woman who is her social inferior has rejected.
Eustacia learns from her grandfather that Clym Yeobright is coming home to Egdon Heath for Christmas.
The structure of the novel might be indicated by the rise and fall of a curve describing expectation. This curve traces the relationship between Clym Yeobright and Eustacia Vye and their aspirations (a relationship mirrored in that between Wildeve and Thomasin). In Book First the curve is rising, as shown in Eustacia's dissatisfaction with Wildeve and her longing for a man to satisfy her need for love and in Thomasin's provincial, limited desire to be satisfied with Wildeve because he is good enough for her and because her aunt wants no stain on her character. The rise extends with Wildeve keeping himself in a position possibly to attract either Eustacia or Thomasin. Clym, of course, has not yet appeared.
Irony is everywhere in this novel, as would be expected in a story of tragic outcome. At least one instance has been singled out for comment. In these chapters, surely Venn's diligent efforts to help Thomasin are ironic, though he himself is unaware of it: his efforts only make Wildeve the more anxious to persuade Eustacia to go off with him. As many critics have remarked, irony is part of Hardy's characteristic view of the world.
Everything about a novel expresses its theme, from its structure to its briefest figure of speech. Nowhere is it expressed more overtly, however, than in its structure. The very essence of this novel is desire, expectation, and frustration, factors that underscore Hardy's belief that man lives in a universe that is at least indifferent to him. The universe may also be hostile, but this is a suggestion that Hardy allows to lie undeveloped, for the most part, beneath everything he says.