Return of the Native

Return of the Native Summary and Analysis of Book Fifth: The Discovery


Chapter 1 - Wherefore Is Light Given to Him That is in Misery

Three weeks after Mrs. Yeobright's funeral, Humprey, a fellow furze cutter, visits Clym to see if he has recovered from the depression he fell into after his mother's death. Clym was so rattled by the message Johnny Nunsuch repeated that he is barely able to function.

Eustacia has not yet told Clym about his mother's visit on the day she died. She does try to improve his spirits, to no avail.

Thomasin also visits Clym, hoping to help. He asks her when she and Wildeve will leave for travel, now he has come into money. She says it will be after she has given birth to the baby with which she is pregnant.

Wildeve visits the cottage one day, and Eustacia tells him of her secrets. Wildeve advises she keep the truth from him until he recovers, as the shock may kill him, but also insists that his presence in the house always be kept a secret.

Chapter 2 – A Lurid Light Breaks in Upon a Darkened Understanding

A month later, Clym has brightened somewhat. One day, he is working in the garden when Christian Cantle brings news of Thomasin's newly born daughter. He also reveals that he saw Mrs. Yeobright on her way to Clym's house on the day she died. He remembers also that she had spoken with Diggory before leaving.

Clym, confused by this information, sets out for his mother's house, intending that he and Eustacia should move there. While he is working on it, Diggory arrives, not knowing that Mrs. Yeobright has died. He is saddened to learn the news, and confusedly tells Clym how she was in such good spirits because of her intention to reunite with Clym.

Clym, even more confused, decides to further interrogate Johnny Nunsuch. When he arrives at the boy’s house, he remembers that his mother is Susan, the woman who stabbed Eustacia in church.

Johnny had in fact seen the whole incident, and he recounts it to Clym. He had seen Clym arrive, and then another man follow, all before Mrs. Yeobright walked to the door. When she knocked, Johnny saw a black-haired lady regard her through the window, but then ignore her knocks. Mrs. Yeobright then left. Clym immediately understands that Eustacia is involved, and blames her for the death.

Chapter 3 – Eustacia Dresses Herself on a Black Morning

Clym returns home and challenges Eustacia to answer these new accusations. He breaks into her desk, and finds an envelope from Wildeve, containing no letter. Eustacia insists upon her innocence, but decides to leave after admitting that she did not unbolt the door when Mrs. Yeobright knocked. She trembles as she prepares to leave, and Clym ties her bonnet for her.

Once she is gone, a servant calls to say that Thomasin and Wildeve’s child has been born, and is to be named Eustacia Clementine. Clym is not amused by the irony.

Chapter 4 – The Ministrations of a Half-Forgotten One

Eustacia walks aimlessly a while, and then decides to return to her grandfather’s house. He is not at home, and the house is closed up. Charley is there, however, and he climbs in to unbolt the door at her request. Seeing her pain, he fetches food for her as he recalls the joy of having held her hand long before.

Eustacia retires, and notices a brace of pistols by her grandfather’s bed. On seeing these, she contemplates suicide. When she returns to the room later, however, they are gone. Charley had removed them after seeing her staring at them. Captain Vye returns home, and has her old room prepared, without asking any questions.

Chapter 5 – An Old Move Inadvertently Repeated

Charley gladly takes on the responsibility of Eustacia's welfare. He places objects from the heath around her house, hoping they will catch her attention and cheer her up. Captain Vye tells Eustacia that Clym has moved to his mother’s house in Blooms-End. Later, she sees Thomasin and her nurse walking with the new baby along the heath.

November 5th comes around. Charley builds a bonfire for Eustacia, to cheer her up. Captain Vye recalls how Wildeve and Thomasin’s original wedding plans went awry one year before.

Charley calls Eustacia to the fire. She is not really engaged with it until she hears a stone splash in the nearby pond. She investigates, and discovers Wildeve there. He believes she had set the fire as a message, as she did the year before, but she corrects his mistake. Nevertheless, he admits he cares for her, and she then asks him to help her plan an escape to Paris. She does not explicitly indicate whether she wishes him to join her on that journey.

Chapter 6 - Thomasin Argues with Her Cousin, and He Writes a Letter

At Blooms-End, Clym's feelings have softened, and he hopes daily that Eustacia will return to him. One day, he decides to visit Thomasin and Wildeve. There, he finds his cousin alone, and he explains the story of Mrs. Yeobright's visit to his cottage. Thomasin suggests he attempt a reconciliation.

Later, Thomasin, who has suspicions about Wildeve's lingering feelings for Eustacia, questions him about the long walks he has recently been taking. She admits she followed him part of the way, and saw him head towards Captain Vye's home. He is angry at having been followed, and they decide not to speak on the subject any more.

Chapter 7 – The Night of the Sixth of November

Eustacia has decided she wants to leave, and will let Wildeve bring her to Budmouth, from which she will travel on to Paris alone. It is a nasty night - so rainy and windy that it is difficult to move or see straight - but she is intent on leaving immediately.

At 8pm on November 6th, Eustacia lights a furze branch as a sign to Wildeve. He signals back.

Meanwhile, Clym has written a letter to Eustacia asking her to return. He entrusts it to Fairway to deliver, but Fairway does not arrive at Captain Vye's house until 10 pm. Because the Captain believes Eustacia is asleep, he leaves it on the mantlepiece.

Eustacia leaves the house to meet Wildeve at Rainbarrow. She realizes she has forgotten money, and worries that asking Wildeve for a loan will encourage him to join her on the journey.

Meanwhile, Susan Nunsuch sees Eustacia passing by her house in the storm, and she constructs a wax effigy of Eustacia to negate the spell she believes Eustacia has placed on her children. She sticks the effigy with pins and melts it in the fire, repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards as she does so.

Chapter 8 – Rain, Darkness and Anxious Wanderers

Clym waits desperately for a reply or a visit from Eustacia. He finally goes to bed, but is awoken by Thomasin, who believes Wildeve and Eustacia are going to abscond together because her husband has disappeared with a large stash of money. She has her baby with her. Captain Vye also arrives at Clym's home, looking for Eustacia. He has found her gone, and is concerned because of what Charley confessed to him about her potential suicidal thoughts.

Clym and Captain Vye leave in search of the missing couple. Thomasin initially stays behind, but eventually grows so anxious that she bundles the baby and sets out to find Wildeve herself. The travel is hard because of the storm, but she encounters Diggory, who tells her he had seen another woman approach only minutes before. Diggory joins her on the search, and takes the baby to lessen her load.

Chapter 9 – Sights and Sounds Draw the Wanderers Together

The narrative jumps back in time a bit. When Wildeve receives Eustacia's signal, he decides he will try not only to help her, but also to accompany her to Paris. He takes half of the inheritance, and rationalizes that leaving Thomasin the other half will assuage the pain of his desertion.

It is difficult to determine his place on the heath because of the storm, and by the time he arrives near Rainbarrow, he encounters Clym, not Eustacia. Before they can confront one another, they hear the sound of a body falling into the water nearby, and rush to investigate.

Meanwhile, Diggory and Thomasin have followed a light they see in the distance. When they approach, Diggory sees a bonnet floating in the water, and he sends Thomasin to fetch help.

Three bodies are ultimately pulled from the water - Eustacia, Clym, and Wildeve. Clym is still alive, while Eustacia and Wildeve are dead. Charley wishes to see Eustacia's body, and Clym allows it. Clym immediately believes he is responsible for having caused the deaths of both the women he loved.


In this Book, we see more than ever before how deeply Clym's guilt runs. He vacillates throughout this section between blaming Eustacia and blaming himself for Mrs. Yeobright's death. The most tragic development of all is that circumstances lead him to believe he has killed both the women he loves by the end of the Book. He notes to himself: "She is the second woman I have killed this year. I was a great cause of my mother’s death; and I am the chief cause of hers" (293). However, this guilt is not entirely selfless. On the contrary, it is rather egocentric, as he sees losses in terms of how they impact his life, rather than in terms of how those around him are affected. At the end of Chapter 9, he notes, "I am getting used to the horror of my existence" (294). There is a willful focus and self-obsession on his part, even if it is centered around hatred and not self-love.

The Book begins with a rather charged confrontation between Clym and Eustacia. His fury evokes that of Othello, in the latter's accustations to Desdemona. Though Eustacia is not in fact an adulteress, the fear of cuckoldry, of having one's pride sacrificed for another man, is so intense that it leads Clym to even discuss murder. He tells Eustacia he abstains from killing her only because he does not wish to make her a martyr. Because he is so defined by his own grief, he is blind to Eustacia's true pain. She has not betrayed him from sexual dissatisfaction or a lack of love, but rather from a deeper dissatisfaction with her life. Her dreams have been shattered, and worst of all, she has nobody to speak to about it.

Of course, she too is defined by self-obsession. The dramatic irony is the reader's awareness that Eustacia knows nothing of Paris, and has no way to support herself there. Her desire to escape is born from desperation, and in it she again rejects and ignores two instances of constant love. One comes from Charley, who continues to support her even in her shame, and the other from Clym, who we know would gladly reunite with her if she made the slightest overture. However, she is so predisposed to tragedy at this point that she engineers circumstances that facilitate her suicide. After all, the very least she could have done was wait for a less stormy night to escape, but she is subconsciously drawn towards the tumult, which represents her own dissatisfaction.

The other symbol Hardy continues to use for her passion is fire. Ironically, the flames again reunite Wildeve and Eustacia, but she was not responsible for them. The transient nature of her passions are such that she is often even unaware of them. In fact, the flames of Eustacia's passions are not for Wildeve at all, but rather for the idea of escape. She admits to herself about Wildeve that, "he’s not great enough for me to give myself to – he does not suffice for my desire" (275). Of course, such quick, transient passions do not last, and it is not accidental that both lovers are vanquished by water at the end of the book. Their lives of brief passions lead to an equally violent smothering.

Ultimately, Eustacia is destroyed by the heath, as she always feared she would be. It has the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and touches on her tragic nature. She always wanted more than it was possible for her to have. And in truth, she is not overwhelmed by the heath, but she rather throws herself deliberately into it, by drowning herself. By constantly engineering situations that would breed disappointment - reuniting at the beginning with a man she did not love; marrying Clym despite his honesty about wanting to live on the heath; attempting to escape to Paris without much of a plan - she makes certain that her death is dramatic, violent, and tragic.

This attitude stands in stark contrast to that of Thomasin, who plunges into the stormy heath heroically. As Hardy notes, "To her there were not, as to Eustacia, demons in the air, and malice and every bush and bough" (282). Her practicality is foremost in her mind, symbolized by the way she bundles her baby, and she survives even this great tragedy because of it. Of course, her complication is suggested by the name she gives her daughter - Eustacia Clementine - as though she is strong enough to confront even her worst suspicions, and to expect the best in people anyway.

There is also an irony in the supernatural tinge at the end of this Book. Hardy introduces the supernatural aspect through Susan Nunsuch, who makes a wax effigy of Eustacia and then tortures it. However, in killing herself, Eustacia unwittingly clears her name. Traditionally, suspected witches were thrown into deep water, with the belief that witches would drown and innocent women would float. The fact that Eustacia floats proves she is not the malevolent spirit the community believes her to be. Wildeve, on the other hand, is completely submerged. (As an interesting sidenote, Wildeve had a more spiritual component in earlier drafts, in which he existed as Toogood the herbalist.) The tragic irony, of course, is that in clearing her name, Eustacia must confirm her own worst beliefs about her isolation from the community. When Charley, Diggory and Clym notice that Eustacia is "very beautiful" as a corpse, they reveal Hardy's tragic impulse. The most tragic events reveal the noblest and most beautiful in humans, while the beauty in humans can often engender the most tragic events.