The reading process of this book is way more challenging than enjoying its story itself. This Thomas Hardy’s fourth book I have read stole my eyes as I was looking for a supposedly light, romantic reading after being left devastated as I completed reading his another novel, Jude the Obscure. At glance, I thought I could finish the book immediately as I planned to bring it as a companion in heading back home. But the reality spoke the other way around. I was struggling in finishing the novel, not because of its heavy, serious theme, but rather I was too busy to find reading time. I could not even read the book in an executive train that was bringing me back home because I preferred to have some sleep or gazing at the train’s windows. When I was at home, automatically I barely touched the book. Given its thickness, I rarely put it into my backpack as it is already packed with other stuff. So it took months to complete the reading despite its quite interesting plot. I almost gave it up. I meant it. After some time, I managed myself to grab the book and focused all of my entire my mind at the pages (I completely stopped reading it after I reached half of the novel).
At one night, despite all tiredness and sleepy head, I regained my spirit and done! Finally I got out of the so-called reading curse. I experienced this reading block for quite few times which I really don’t have any intention at all. My worse reading moment are with “Fury”, “Middlemarch”, to name a few. After closing “The Return of the Native”, my expression was: Damn! Why I didn’t finish reading it earlier??? The book is so awesome!
The book is about love pentagon, about five persons who are involved in a complicated romance story. About five characters who fail to admit what they really need thus instead get what they want only want to see.
Hardy introduces the beauty of fictional Egdon Heath, the place where all major characters — Clym Yeobright, Damon Wildeve, Eustacia Vye, Thomasin, and Diggory Venn — live at the opening of the book. Eustacia becomes the central woman character in this book. Hardy describes her as a very beautiful, smart woman with such abundant dream she can’t manage to realize it into a reality. She lives with his grandfather and through all of her life, she wishes to marry a gentleman who can grant her ambitions and dreams of leaving the place and living in a fashionable, big city. She is so in love with Wildeve but the latter’s playboy attitude causes her to get so envious. She thinks he only plays with heart. But Wildeve thinks he only seeks for some pleasure, something that results on his serious, deep relationship with Thomasin, Clym’s cousin. Wildeve and Thomasin get married anyway despite the fact that Wildeve actually sets his heart for Eustacia only. For the rest of his life.
Clym Yeobright, the native of the place, returns home after some years away in France to seek opportunities in education. He wants to establish a school in his native place, an idea that receives opposition from his mother. The stubborn Clym resumes with his initiative. The beauty of Eustacia dazzles him. He invites her to become one of the teachers at his planned school. Eustacia, who has been waiting for this kind of man to propose her, reluctantly agree while keep on persuading him to return to France. The two tie a knot despite Clym mother’s strong rejection. She doesn’t even want to attend his sole son’s wedding. She knows pretty well how bad Eustacia’s attitude is; arrogant, lazy, daydreamer.
Clym and Eustacia opt to leave the former’s house. As days go by, Clym finds it hard to make his dream come true. Instead, his eyes are sick due to his long-hour reading habit. Eustacia gets depressed day by day. Her husband is ill. It’s almost impossible to ask for him to go back to France. The worst finally comes. As Clym gets better, he decides to work as a laborer as he believes this kind of job won’t harm his eyes. Eustacia is angry at his decision. She feels so ashamed at knowing what he will do to make ends meet. Her husband is an intellectual, noble person, how come he wants to do such kind of thing?
As her life is getting away of her ideal, Eustacia seeks for some entertainment. At one night, she decides to go to a dancing party where she meets Wildeve, someone who always has a special room in her heart. The night marks their reunion and their relationship goes deeper than ever. They do what they once did in the past; secret meetings behind their partners’ back. Both Clym and Thomasin know nothing of this. Thomasin knows that her husband and Eustacia once a lover but she has no curiosity that their relationship goes on. No one pays attention to this, no one but Venn.
Venn, a mysterious guardian angel who loves Thomasin whole-heartedly, knows everything on the secret meetings. Even after Thomasin rejects his love then she is married to Wildeve, Venn remains as a good companion.
Realizing how short and lonely her life is, Clym’s mother takes initiatives to amend her bad relationship with Clym and Eustacia. The old woman manages to come to their house and apologize. As she is approaching the house, Clym is sleeping while Eustacia and Wildeve are in the house. Both are speaking seriously on the fate of their relationship. When Clym’s mother knocks the door, Eustacia decides not to open it for she is afraid that Clym’s mother will exacerbate their already doomed relationship. Clym’s mother feels so much in despair as she knows that Clym does not want to open the door and rekindle their intercourse.
Much to her disappointment, Clym’s mother heads back home with grief. She is so sad that she falls ill seriously and dies before meeting her son for the last time. Clym mourns his mother death and he feels much worse after he knows it is Eustacia who doesn’t allow her mother to get in the house.
After a terrible fight following the death, Eustacia leaves the house then returns to her grandfather’s house. She locks herself, feels so sad, and even tries to shoot herself. This is the perfect time for Wildeve to offer his help. He visits her one night then invites her to escape. Wildeve wants to provide material assistance for Eustacia after he inherits his uncle’s wealth. The two plan to meet at one night when which Wildeve will walk her to a harbor.
Learning her husband’s suspicious absence at that night, Thomasin contacts her cousin. Clym immediately runs to Eustacia’s house to ask whether or not she reads his letter. Knowing she leaves even without the knowledge of her grandfather, Clym seeks for her whereabouts. As he arrives at a dam, he hears a strong voice indicating a person falls into the dam. He runs faster then finds out Wildeve jumps into the water. Clym does the same.
When they are rescued, Eustacia and Wildeve are dead while Clym is survived. The end of the story is closed with the wedding of Venn and Thomasin while Clym eventually achieves his dream of sharing knowledge to people in the place though he does this not in a schoolroom but at top of a hill, like a preacher.