Chapter 1 - The Inevitable Movement Onward
The sad story spreads across Egdon and into other regions, becoming more exaggerated through the retelling.
Thomasin bears her grief with humility, and is consoled through each stage by the changing seasons on the heath. She, baby Eustacia, and three servants move in with Clym at Blooms-End, but are no solace to Clym, who remains depressed in his guilt.
Clym lives frugally on his inheritance of 120 pound a year, bequeathed him by his mother’s estate. Thomasin is similarly prudent with Wildeve's inheritance, as she wishes to give her daughter a comfortable future.
Diggory Venn has saved enough money from his reddleman days to quit the trade and buy a substantial dairy farm. One day, he visits Clym and Thomasin at Blooms-End, dressed smartly and lacking the red stain of his former profession. Clym invites him to stay for tea, but Diggory declines, saying he came only to ask Thomasin's permission to erect a maypole outside of her property. She agrees, and is delighted by the scene of its construction, and the promise of May Day celebration.
Thomasin dresses elegantly for the May Day festivities, and Clym suspects she does so to impress him, in hopes of facilitating a marriage between them. He is saddened by the idea, since he does not consider himself capable of such love. He decides to forgo the May Day celebration, and to remain by himself.
Later that night, after the party has ended, Thomasin reproaches Clym for skipping it. Through the window, they see Diggory outside in the dusk, carefully searching for a glove that a local lady had lost during the afternoon. Realizing that such devotion is clearly a mark of love, Thomasin accepts that he must love another as he once loved her, and she is saddened to admit it.
Chapter 2 – Thomasin Walks in a Green Place by the Roman Road
Not long afterwards, Thomasin realizes she has lost one of her new gloves, and asks her servant Rachel about it. Rachel admits that she wore the gloves to the Maypole dance, but lost one of them there. She confessed the loss to Diggory, who then searched for it and, when he could not locate it, gave Rachel money to replace it. Thomasin realizes that Diggory still loves her.
One day, she is strolling when she encounters Diggory. She asks for the glove back, and they speak honestly and with affection. He confesses that he has relinquished all his feelings and is now totally devoted to making money. When Thomasin reveals that she has bequeathed her entire fortune to baby Eustacia, Diggory realizes that she is no longer socially superior to him, and so it is possible for them to forge a new friendship.
Chapter 3 – The Serious Discourse of Clym with His Cousin
Clym remains deluded that Thomasin wishes to marry him. He, however, has no interest in having any relationship after Eustacia. He is further troubled to remember that his mother had always wanted them to marry, a remembrance that exacerbates his guilt. The narrator interjects that children often make assumptions about a parent's desires, but that these assumptions are often incorrect.
Clym devotes his life to only three activities: visiting his mother’s grave, visiting Eustacia’s grave, and preparing to be a preacher. One day, Thomasin admits to Clym her interest in marrying Diggory. He promises to support her in whatever she decides, and she then announces that they will marry in the following month.
Chapter 4 - Cheerfulness Again Asserts Itself at Blooms-End, and Clym Finds His Vocation
A bit before the wedding, the locals are stuffing a mattress to give to the new couple. Grandfer Cantle discusses appropriate songs with which to serenade the newlyweds.
Clym does not wish to take part in the wedding festivities, fearing that he will cast an unwelcome gloom on them. On the day of the wedding, he is walking along the heath when he meets Charley, who asks Clym for a keepsake of Eustacia. They walk back to Blooms-End, and Clym gives Charley a lock of Eustacia’s hair. Charley is moved to tears.
Clym does not wish to join the wedding party taking place in Thomasin's half of the house, but he aks Charley to describe what he sees through the window. (Clym's vision is still poor, so he cannot see it himself.) Charley describes the merriment, Thomasin's seeming happiness, and a toast that the party takes. When Clym asks whether the toast is in in his honor, Charley says it is in honor of the happy couple.
Once the party is finished, Thomasin thanks Clym for his hospitality, and hopes he will enjoy the peace of an emptier house. Clym again mourns for his mother.
The Sunday after the wedding, Clym begins preaching moral sermons on the barrow and in surrounding areas. Many are moved by the honesty of his words, while others doubt his lessons. However, he is given a kind reception wherever he goes, as everyone knows of his tragic story.
The opening of this Book is primarily concerned with grieving. Thomasin's grief is intense, but follows the natural trajectory of the seasons. "The spring came and calmed her; the summer came and soothed her; the autumn arrived, and she began to be comforted" (295). This connection not only ties Thomasin to the heath, but suggests that recovery from even tragic grief is part of a natural order.
Her recovery coincides with her sexual awakening, which is symbolized both in tradition and in her by the May Day celebrations. May Day is traditionally an acknowledgment of the healing powers of spring, which replace the cold sterility of winter. When she dresses up, she might be doing so for Diggory, but she might also be accepting that she remains a young, sexual woman interested in a future with another man.
Clym's grief, on the other hand, is entirely unnatural and based in his self-obsession. He is unable to see past his own guilt and grief, and he imagines the entire world as an extension of that. He refuses to allow himself any enjoyment, choosing to hide from the awakening of May Day in further solitude. Further, he refuses to celebrate life through his cousin's wedding. He claims he would darken the ceremony, and he is probably correct, if only because it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Clym reveals this when he asks Charley to report on whether he is missed at the ceremony. It is unreasonable to think that the joyous wedding party would focus on an absence rather than the community gathered for it, but he is only interested in what confirms his self-hatred. It is not within his power to recognize that he could be part of the community if he chose. Yet again, Clym proves his own worst enemy. He refuses to let the world change him (as it does Thomasin), but instead settles on his ideas about his guilt and failure.
Meanwhile, Diggory has proved the possibility of reinvention. When he first visits them in this book, the colors of his dress - white, blue and green - mark a dramatic contrast to the red that formerly defined him. That he is now one of the wealthier men on the heath is a reminder that we cannot assume that what we see is the full truth. Life changes us, both in tragic and wonderful ways, and we are left, like Thomasin, to react to those changes.
Indeed, Thomasin proves both her pragmatism and romanticism in her pursuit of Diggory. When she believes he searches for another woman's glove, she accepts that she has missed her chance with him. However, when she learns that he still loves her, she quickly engineers the conversation that begins their new relationship. She has awakened from her grief, and is clearly stronger now, showing a forwardness more akin to Eustacia than the Thomasin we met in Book 1. However, the reality of money remains present. Diggory does not feel fit to pursue her until he learns that she herself has no money (it has all been bequeathed to baby Eustacia). If she still had Wildeve's small fortune, Diggory would not consider himself an appropriate match, but if she is in need of protection, then he feels entitled to pursue her.
Clym's final vocation as a preacher is lovely and sad. In many ways, this vocation is only a slight shift from that of teacher. Both aim to console and raise the spirit. However, the difference is that, as an itinerant preacher, he is willfully alone, with only transient communities of listeners. He is much like Diggory was as reddleman. As he delivers lessons and morals to others, the reader has an opportunity to remember how so many circumstances conspired to engineer this sad end. Has Diggory arrived earlier than Wildeve at Blooms-End to propose, had Christian not lost the money to Wildeve, had Eustacia opened the door...all of these variations could have changed the way Clym's life turned out, but such is the nature of tragedy. Perhaps the most resonant image is Clym on the landscape. For all his suffering, the heath remains unchanged, barely touched by such momentous events. The tragedy is a human one, and it wil be washed away by time as is all else save nature.