Return of the Native Major Characters
Egdon Heath: The setting of the novel, the heath is as important to the structure and plot of the novel as the human characters. The heath is a driving force in itself, a force that goes by its own free will and nature. The characters' attitude toward the heath shows their moods and concerns, from those who look at the heath as a distainful and dreary place to those who consider Egdon Heath their home.
Diggory Venn: The handsome, young reddleman in love with Thomasin Yeobright. He is Thomasin's guardian angel, thwarting several of Wildeve's attempts to take advantage of Thomasin's sweet nature. Even though he is not considered a suitor for Thomasin in Mrs. Yeobright's eyes, Venn continues to love Thomasin as ardently as he had two years before and vows to do whatever it takes to make her happy, even if her happiness means being married to Wildeve. Venn pulls the bodies of Clym, Wildeve, and Eustacia from the weir. The sixth book of the novel was added at the demand of Hardy's public, and has Diggory Venn finally be rewarded with marriage to the woman he loves, Thomasin. Venn knows the heath well and is accustomed to it, using the landscape to his advantage to thwart Wildeve. He can run through the familiar heath at night and during bad weather.
Thomasin Yeobright: Mrs. Yeobright's niece and Clym's cousin (and former sweetheart). She is a fair, sweet girl with simple tastes and needs. She thinks very highly of her family's opinions--she asks her aunt and Clym if she should marry Venn, but she also has an independent mind and free will. Thomasin declares that she will marry Wildeve, even though her aunt does not approve, and she tells Clym that she is going to marry Venn whether he approves or not. Thomasin is practical and thoughtful, a good listener and advisor to Mrs. Yeobright and Clym. Having been born and raised on the heath, Tomasin, unlike Eustacia and Wildeve, is content living here. The heath means to her a 'nice, wild' place where she can raise her baby and teach her to walk, but also a place where she might catch cold.
Mrs. Yeobright: The middle-aged, proud mother of Clym and aunt to Thomasin. She is genteel and educated, a curate's daughter. She feels superior to the heath-folk and looks down on them with condescension, though her opinion is not taken lightly--her approval and rejection of Clym's and Thomasin's lovers matter to them. She is appalled and shamed that Clym is a furze-cutter, and wonders how he can possibly degrade himself with a job connected to the bushes of the heath. The heath is her death--Mrs. Yeobright dies from heat and exhaustion. Her last words express her belief that she is a 'broken-hearted woman cast off by her son.'
Damon Wildeve: The handsome, young man who enjoys playing with women's affections. Formerly a civil engineer, he becomes the owner of an inn. He and Eustacia take pleasure in tormenting each other, but they also share a hatred for the heath and a desire for glamorous cities and travels. Wildeve marries Thomasin to get revenge on both Eustacia (for rejecting him) and Mrs. Yeobright (for thinking him not worthy of her niece). He enjoys taking advantage of Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright, but Diggory Venn thwarts several of his attempts. Wildeve also enjoys having money. He privately schemes with Eustacia to flee the heath, but he plans to elope with her, with the fortune he inherits from a dead uncle. He ultimately dies, trying to rescue Eustacia in the weir.
Eustacia Vye: The nineteen-year-old sultry, sensuous beauty whose passionate, uncurbed nature is uncontrollable. She desires to love a man worthy of her, a man and who will take her from the dreary, miserable world she knows living on the heath. She loves Wildeve because he is the only one she thinks is worthy of her, but when she hears that Clym Yeobright is arriving from Paris, she sets her sights on him, scheming to meet and later marry him. She marries Clym because she believes he will eventually return to Paris. Eustacia is proud of her class; she feels superior to the heath-folk. She rejects Wildeve because of his class and feels humiliated running away with him. She is disgraced beyond humiliation when Clym becomes a furze-cutter; she cannot believe that her husband would actually consider taking a job so intimately connected to the heath she hates. Her hatred and disgust of the heath is as ardent and bitter as Clym's love for the heath is tender and affectionate. Eustacia feels that the heath will be her death: she feels as if she cannot survive in a place that cannot accept her and that she cannot accept. She ultimately dies by drowning in the weir.
Clym Yeobright: The 'native' who 'returns' to Egdon Heath from Paris. Clym is well-educated and well-to-do, intelligent and thoughtful. The only son of Mrs. Yeobright, Clym is devoted to his mother, even when she violently opposes his marriage to Eustacia. Clym is glad to return to the heath. He feels that his business in Paris is shallow and idle and wants to do something significant with his life, unlike his wife Eustacia. But he is attracted to Eustacia for her beauty and her passionate nature and is drawn to the mysterious and dangerous aura she exudes. When Clym's eyesight weakens, he takes a furze-cutting job, which shames his wife and mother but is quite consoling for him. He is glad to work on his beloved heath, and he wants to feel useful. He is so devastated by his mother's death that he drives Eustacia away. Clym tries to make up with Eustacia by writing a letter, but he writes it too late and the letter does not reach Eustacia before she dies. Clym feels responsible for the deaths of Mrs. Yeobright and Eustacia. He secretly thinks about marrying Thomasin, but he decides that Thomasin should marry the man she loves, Venn. Clym finally finds his vocation as a wandering preacher.
Captain Vye: Eustacia's grandfather, a retired naval officer. He is somewhat erratic and offbeat. He does not know how to control Eustacia's passionate, wild personality. He is sometimes tactless; he does not think before he speaks, and says what he feels, unbothered about offending people. It is Captain Vye who first suspects that Thomasin and Wildeve are not married when he sees Diggory Venn's van traveling to Blooms-End.
Grandfer Cantle: The heath-man who serenades newlyweds and Christian's father. Grandfer Cantle plans to serenade Thomasin and Wildeve when they return to Egdon; he later sings to Thomasin and Venn on their wedding-day.
Humphrey: The furze-cutter who advises Clym. Humphrey talks about Clym in front of Eustacia. He suggests to Clym that he become a furze-cutter to earn extra money. He also tells Clym that he believes Clym and Thomasin would make a good couple.
Olly Dowden: The woman with whom Mrs. Yeobright walks to the Quiet Woman Inn. She tells Mrs. Yeobright that she does not think Wildeve and Thomasin are a good match. She later helps out at the inn when Eustacia's and Wildeve's bodies are pulled out of the weir.
Johnny Nunsuch: The little boy who believes in curses and myths of the heath. He keeps Eustacia's bonfire lit on November 5th until she tells him to stop. He is scared of the reddleman because he believes the reddleman is connected to the devil. Johnny is the last person Mrs.Yeobright talks to before she dies, and he repeats her words that she is a mother cast off by her son for the villagers, especially Clym, to hear.
Charley: The lovesick boy infatuated with Eustacia who works for the Vyes'. He willingly allows Eustacia to perform his role one night at the Yeobrights', so that she can meet him. He loves her so much that he helps her get inside her grandfather's locked house and tries to comfort her, bringing her food and lighting a fire for her. He also lights a bonfire for her as a surprise, thus summoning Wildeve unknowingly. When Eustacia dies, Charley is devastated. Clym gives him a strand of Eustacia's hair, which he cherishes lovingly.
Rachel: Thomasin's nurse. She wears Thomasin's gloves to the May-pole festivities and loses a glove. When Venn learns that the glove belongs to Thomasin, he gives Rachel money to buy a new pair of gloves, but he still searches for the lost one.