The Return of the Native
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The Return of the Native combines all of the great themes of Thomas Hardy's works. Wonderful descriptions of the English countryside underscore a rural tale of doomed love, passion, and melancholy. The novel opens with the famous portrait of Egdon Heath, the wild, haunted Wessex moor that D. H. Lawrence called 'the real stuff of tragedy' of the book. The heath's changing face mirrors the fortunes of the farmers, innkeepers, sons, mothers, and lovers that populate the novel. The 'native' is Clym Yeobright, coming home from a successful, cosmopolitan life in Paris, a place far removed from the unforgiving landscape of Egdon Heath. He finds that his cousin, Thomasin, is about to marry Damon Wildeve, a rakish and confused man with a lover, Eustacia Vye, whom he cannot forget. Eustacia is willful, ambitious, and dangerously alluring. Hardy describes her as 'the raw material of a divinity. . . . She had Pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries.' As the characters are drawn together, they scheme and maneuver, often under the eye of Diggory Venn, the reddleman whose relentless virtue must find its reward at the violent climax of the novel.
The Return of the Native was first published in Belgravia magazine in twelve parts in 1878 and revised by Hardy in 1895 and in 1912, when he produced the definitive Wessex Edition of all of his novels. Described on publication by Harper's magazine as 'delightful reading,' it has retained its power to move and absorb the reader and stands with The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure among the finest of Hardy's works.