Return of the Native

Character list

  • Clement (Clym) Yeobright—A man of about thirty who gives up a business career in Paris to return to his native Egdon Heath to become a “schoolmaster to the poor and ignorant” (Hardy himself gave up a successful career as a London architect and returned to his native Dorchester to become a writer). "The beauty here visible would in no time be ruthlessly overrun by its parasite, thought." Clym is the "native" to which the book's title refers.
  • Eustacia Vye—A raven-haired young beauty who chafes against her life on the heath and longs to escape it to lead the more adventure-filled life of the world. Some of the heathfolk think she is a witch. Hardy describes her as "the raw material of a divinity" whose "celestial imperiousness, love, wrath, and fervour had proved to be somewhat thrown away on netherward Egdon."
  • Mrs. Yeobright—Clym’s mother, a widow of inflexible standards. Thomasin has lived with her for many years, but Clym is her only child. She strongly disapproves of Eustacia.
  • Thomasin (Tamsin) Yeobright—Clym’s cousin and Mrs. Yeobright's niece, a young girl of gentle ways and conventional expectations. In Hardy's original manuscript, Wildeve tricks her with a false marriage to seduce her. "Mrs Yeobright saw a little figure...undefended except by the power of her own hope."
  • Damon Wildeve—Eustacia's former lover and Thomasin's first husband. He is an ex-engineer who has failed in his profession and who now keeps an inn, "The Quiet Woman"—so-called because its sign depicts a decapitated woman carrying her own head. He has a wandering eye and an appetite for women. "A lady killing career."
  • Diggory Venn—A resourceful man of twenty-four and a reddleman (a travelling seller of reddle, red chalk used for marking sheep). He selflessly protects Thomasin throughout the novel despite the fact that she refused to marry him two years before. He keeps a watchful eye on Eustacia to make sure Wildeve doesn't go back to her. At the end, he renounces his trade to become a dairy farmer like his father, and in doing so loses the red skin. He is then seen as a suitable husband for Thomasin. Venn's red coloration and frequent narrative references to his 'Mephistophelean' or diabolical character are symbolic and important. In one particularly significant chapter ("The Morning and Evening of an Eventful Day"), Venn displays an increasingly unlikely string of good luck, repeatedly rolling dice and defeating a rival. This event makes Venn something of a deus ex machina, as well as a quasi-magical figure. While Hardy abandons these aspects of Venn's character by the end of the novel, during his 'reddleman' phase, Venn lends elements of magical realism and what modern readers would understand to be superheroic elements to the novel.
  • Captain Drew—Eustacia’s grandfather and a former naval officer (renamed Captain Vye in later editions).
  • Timothy Fairway—A sententious man of middle age who is greatly respected by the other heathfolk.
  • Grandfer Cantle—A somewhat senile and always lively ex-soldier of about sixty-nine.
  • Christian Cantle—Grandfer Cantle's fearful and timid thirty-one-year-old son.
  • Humphrey—Clym's eventual colleague, a furze cutter (furze is a low, prickly shrub more commonly called gorse).
  • Susan Nunsuch—Eustacia's nearest neighbour and bitterest enemy who convinces herself that Eustacia's witchery has caused her son's sickliness. In a memorable scene, Susan tries to protect him by making a wax effigy of Eustacia, sticking it full of pins, and melting it in her fireplace while uttering the Lord's Prayer backward. Eustacia drowns later that night.
  • Johnny Nunsuch—Susan’s son, a young boy. He encounters Mrs. Yeobright during her fatal walk home and, in obedience to her wishes, reports her last words to Clym: I am a broken-hearted woman cast off by my son.
  • Charley—A sixteen-year-old boy who works for Captain Drew and who admires Eustacia, largely from afar.
  • Egdon Heath—The setting for all the novel's events; considered by some critics to be the leading character as well.[5] It is profoundly ancient, the scene of intense but long-forgotten pagan lives. As its tumuli attest, it is also a graveyard that has swallowed countless generations of inhabitants without changing much itself. To Thomasin, Clym, and Diggory, it is a benign, natural place; in Eustacia's eyes, it becomes a malevolent presence intent on destroying her.

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