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dulcinea3
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Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

Here are some discussion questions about the novel, from the B&N Classics edition.  Be aware that this thread may contain spoilers!

 

1. A simple description of the various forces at work in The Return of the Native would be: (1) nature, as represented by Egdon Heath; (2) communal opinion, in part created by the heath; and (3) individual desire, as exemplified by Eustacia.  Which force triumphs in the end?  The heath, of course.  Could such a novel be written now - given a world population of 6 billion, global warming, the continuous extinction of species, the disappearance of rain forests?  Would the heath hold as much power over us today?

 

2. How should we judge Eustacia?  Sympathetically, or not?  With mixed feelings?

 

3. A half century before Hardy published The Return of the Native, Romantic poets saw nature as the source of all good.  What was going on around Hardy - in science, in philosophy, in religion - that might have encouraged his natural pessimism?

 

4. Is Hardy a good psychologist?  Or is he too eager for his characters to make a point, which means that realistic psychologies become impossible in his characters?

 

5. Does the tragic end of the novel seem imposed or forced, or does it follow naturally and inevitably from the interactions of characters and setting?

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Peppermill
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

1. A simple description of the various forces at work in The Return of the Native would be: (1) nature, as represented by Egdon Heath; (2) communal opinion, in part created by the heath; and (3) individual desire, as exemplified by Eustacia.  Which force triumphs in the end?  The heath, of course.  Could such a novel be written now - given a world population of 6 billion, global warming, the continuous extinction of species, the disappearance of rain forests?  Would the heath hold as much power over us today?

 

 

 

For some thoughts on the hold geography and nature have on life today, consider this blog by Monty.

 

Of course, the message/issue today is the interaction of human activities and the powerful forces of the planet itself.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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dulcinea3
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

[ Edited ]

Pepper, after I posted this, I realized that you haven't finished reading the novel yet (I think), so my reply may contain SPOILERS - be warned!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like to think that there must still be some rural areas where nature is still more important than technology.  There are also still nature-worshipping groups, such as druids, although I suppose most of them have to exist in the practical, earning-a-living world at the same time.

 

The examples that the author of the discussion question gives are caused by man (yes, I know there is debate about whether global warming, or the more accurate 'climate change' is caused by man or not), but the effects that man is having on nature and the world will, in its turn, have an effect on man.  In addition, there seem to be more and more natural disasters all the time.  A hurricane or flood could certainly sweep someone away in as dramatic a fashion as Eustacia is swept into the weir.

 

Certainly, the way that Hardy describes Egdon Heath, it has always been so and it is implied that it will always be so.  It is primeval and unchanging, even to some extent immune to the ravages of mankind.

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Peppermill
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

[ Edited ]

Certainly, the way that Hardy describes Egdon Heath, it has always been so and it is implied that it will always be so.  It is primeval and unchanging, even to some extent immune to the ravages of mankind.

 

Dulcinea -- except for mysteries and potboilers, I seldom am concerned with "spoilers," but thanks for the consideration.  (In fact, my friends tease me, because, especially when time is pressed, I only too often skim or try to skip to the end of a book to resolve the plot, so that I can return to read it at a more leisurely pace.  Fortunately or unfortunately, many [post]modern novels are not particularly linear.) 

 

Anyway, what I wanted to say here is that much of the Industrial Revolution and the exploitation of natural resources, rivers and lakes for water and waste, ..., were based on assumptions about the immunity of "nature" and the planet to the ravages of humankind.  Only in fairly recent years have we come to acknowledge the symbiosis. Even anthropologists now recognize that many groups were nomadic because fixed environments could not sustain either their food requirements or sanitation needs.  Hardy was writing at end of the Agricultural Age and the beginning of the Industrial Age.  He probably had no comprehension of the possibility, let alone the significance, of the population growth and the industrialization that have become realities.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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foxycat
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

 


dulcinea3 wrote:

 

 

5. Does the tragic end of the novel seem imposed or forced, or does it follow naturally and inevitably from the interactions of characters and setting?


The tragic ending is natural, but the glued-on happy ending for Venn and Thomasin seems forced. The novel had been serialized, and Hardy tacked it on to please the public. I finished it tonight, and those last few chapters seem out-of-place and anti-climactic.

 

 

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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foxycat
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

[ Edited ]

 


dulcinea3 wrote:

 

4. Is Hardy a good psychologist?  Or is he too eager for his characters to make a point, which means that realistic psychologies become impossible in his characters?

 

 


The latter. Clym reminds me a little of  Siddharta, who achieves enlightenment through asceticism, but Siddharta is based on Indian philosophy and is not meant to be mistaken for realism. Hardy actually creates Clym with a straight face.  :smileywink:  He leaves his prosperous job to live among the uneducated folk on the heath, wants to be a teacher. Later he asks a furze-cutter about his job, decides right there to be a furze-cutter, learns to love his work, accepts his handicap and then becomes a preacher.   It just doesn't ring true.

  BTW--why was furze cut and bundled? anyone?

Thomasin is a typical Victorian literary character, saintly, faithful, moral, completely devoted to her husband, no matter what... and dull.
Wildeve is totally uncaring about anyone's feelings but his own, a sort of cardboard villain.
But I think Eustacia is the most complex character in the book. She does love Clym, and at the same time is unrealistic and selfish. She has doubts at the end about going off with Wildeve, and almost kills herself (or maybe does, in the weir) over her breakup with Clym and her part in Mrs. Yeobright's death. I felt more sympathetic toward her at the end than earlier.  She's far from a typical character in Victorian literature, a more modern woman, one who strays from convention.

 

 

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Peppermill
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

"But I think Eustacia is the most complex character in the book. She does love Clym, and at the same time is unrealistic and selfish. She has doubts at the end about going off with Wildeve, and almost kills herself (or maybe does, in the weir) over her breakup with Clym and her part in Mrs. Yeobright's death. I felt more sympathetic toward her at the end than earlier.  She's far from a typical character in Victorian literature, a more modern woman, one who strays from convention."

 

 

Rochelle -- your comments reminded me of this from the end of my copy (Modern Library):

 

"In the Return of the Native, Clym and Eustacia illustrate in a number of ways the exploratory nature of Hardy's writing. In this novel the experimentation is of a fairly rudimentary kind. In Clym, we have an early example of the "advanced" young thinker; in the treatment of both of them, we see Hardy's increasingly complex and searching examination of the nature of love, and with Eustacia there is some grappling with the technical problems of exploring a character in depth in a novel."

 

Rosemary Sumner, Thomas Hardy, Psychologist Novelist, 1981. 

 

Bold and italics added.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

Gee, that's the second time I hit the nail on the head. I could write forwards for novels. :smileyvery-happy:

 

 

 

 

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

 


foxycat wrote:

Gee, that's the second time I hit the nail on the head. I could write forwards for novels. :smileyvery-happy:


 

I am curious as to what would be considered "technical problems" in exploring a characters.  What would they be called?   Anyone here who has studied creating fiction or other writing that could enlighten us?  I have a "gut feel," but not words.

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)

No answer for that, but does anyone see an Oedipal relationship between Clym and his mother?

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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dulcinea3
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Re: Return of the Native - Discussion Questions (SPOILERS)


foxycat wrote:

No answer for that, but does anyone see an Oedipal relationship between Clym and his mother?


 

Yes, I think there is a suggestion of that (not literally in the sexual sense).  Clym is definitely a mama's boy.  He is the center of her world, and to him, she is kind of a wise divinity.

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