Notes on Return of the Native Themes

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Return of the Native Topic Tracking: Man Against Nature

Man Against Nature 1: The setting of the novel, Egdon Heath, never changes--it is as forbidding and desolate as it may be toward its inhabitants and its visitors. The heath never yields to anyone.

Man Against Nature 2: The reddleman notices the lone figure standing on top of Rainbarrow, watching for something or someone. He also notices that the figure departs as soon as the turf- and furze-cutters and gatherers make their ascent to the top of Rainbarrow. The reddleman sees that the solitary figure does not want to talk to the heath-folk, and is therefore rebelling against the customs and nature of the heath.

Man Against Nature 3: Eustacia hates everything connected to Egdon Heath--especially the turf and furze-gatherers and cutters. She feels that any job or object connected to the heath is degrading and miserable. Eustacia's rejection of the heath shows her rebellion against nature.

Man Against Nature 4: Eustacia and Wildeve both share a deep disgust for the heath. They both yearn for exciting, cosmopolitan cities where excitement and mystery attract them, rather than the isolated, barren landscape of the heath.

Man Against Nature 5: Knowing how much Eustacia yearns to escape the heath, Venn offers Eustacia a job as a paid companion to get her out--and away from Wildeve. Eustacia, however, has too much pride to take a job, even if the job would get her out of Egdon. She declares that she would rather live on the miserable heath than work.

Man Against Nature 6: Eustacia believes that Clym Yeobright is the answer to her prayers--if he marries her, she will be able to escape the heath for Paris, where Clym is from. She is sure that Clym's love will elevate her from the drudgery of the heath and change her life forever.

Man Against Nature 7: Eustacia declares that she would be content being married to Clym and living with him on the heath, if they are not able to return to Paris soon. She wants to believe love is worth more than anything, even her desire to leave the heath. However, her words are untrue; her deep hatred for the heath will reveal itself to Clym.

Man Against Nature 8: Clym and Eustacia argue about Clym's new job as a furze-cutter. While Clym is content with his job, Eustacia is bitterly shamed by it. She cannot fathom working at a job so intimately connected with the heath. When Clym asks if she regrets marrying him, now that he is a furze-cutter, Eustacia cannot deny her true feelings and admits that she still dreams of leaving the heath for a better life.

Man Against Nature 9: Mrs. Yeobright dies after walking with a weak heart in the sweltering heat. Her death shows the insignificance of the human world against the expansive, forbidding heath.

Man Against Nature 10: When Eustacia and Clym argue about his mother's death, Clym suddenly realizes that Eustacia has never been and will never be happy with him, as long as they continue to live on the heath. He is hurt that his wife does not share his love for the heath; he had believed that Eustacia had reconciled herself with the idea of living there.

Man Against Nature 11: Eustacia feels that her life is meaningless and worthless, now that she has left Clym and is still on Egdon Heath. She knows that he will never return to Paris for her. Eustacia contemplates killing herself, to escape the futility of her life.

Man Against Nature 12: Eustacia's vision of the heath as repulsive and isolated now broadens to the whole world; she feels that the world, not just the heath, is against her. Eustacia feels that she never can or will belong to anyone or anything. She feels defeated and resigned to her fate; she knows she can never win as long as the heath rejects her.

Man Against Nature 13: Eustacia feels that fate has been unjust. She asks the heavens what she has done to deserve such a terrible fate, to be bound to the heath forever without any chance of escape, in desperation and bitterness. The heavens and the heath are indifferent to Eustacia's tragic life.

Man Against Nature 14: Venn pulls Eustacia's cold, lifeless body out of the water. Whether she purposely fell in or slipped, Eustacia has drowned. Because Eustacia could not accept the heath, the heath has rejected her for all eternity.

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