Thomas Hardy’s art of plot-construction in Return of the Native

Thomas HardySymmetry and unity: The plots in the novels of Hardy show a remarkable unity and symmetry. Hardy’s training as an architect seems to have greatly influenced his art in the construction of his plots. The RETURN OF THE NATIVE has a plot which admirably built and constructed. The plot largely follows the logic of cause and effect (even though chance too plays its part) and it is free from any superfluities and digressions. The plot is well-knit and the various love-stories are interwoven. The setting of the story, namely Egdon Heath remains the same, is a great unity. In observing the unities, this novel has the stamp of ancient classical tragedy.

A Typical Hardy-tragedy: RETURN OF THE NATIVE is quite typical of Hardy’s peculiar genius and fully illustrates Hardy’s view of tragedy. In considering any tragic work, whether it takes the form of a play or a novel, we have to ask the following questions: (1) What sort of persons are the victims of suffering? (2) What are the causes of the disaster or catastrophe that engulfs them? (3) What is the emotional reaction of the audience or the readers to the suffering depicted and what is the nature of the impact that the spectacle of human misery makes on them? (4) What is the writer’s view of human nature in general (be it good or bad)? The NR answers all the questions. (discuss the background of the novel and the characters).

The causes of disaster in a tragedy. The clash of human wills and purposes: as previously studied.
The working of fate, incidents and the hostility of nature: as previously studied.

The emotional impact: The tragic scenes in the novel are very powerful indeed. Hardy’s description of the circumstances in which Mrs. Yeobright dies is intensely moving. The effect of her death on Clym’s mind and the haunting sense of guilt which he experiences is also touching. The death of Eustacia, whether accidental or suicidal, create powerful impact on our minds. The descriptions of tragic happenings give rise to a wide range of emotions in our hearts – pity, fear, terror, awe, admiration etc. A “Catharsis” of the feelings of pity and fear is certainly effected, if by “Catharsis” we mean simply a feeling of relief achieved though an intense experience of the twin feelings of pity and fear.

The essentials of the plot: The pictorial opening of the novel is famous. It introduces Egdon Heath, which has been regarded as one of the principal characters in the novel. After dealing with the Heath, Hardy introduces human characters. The first to appear is Eustacia Vye who is disgruntled with life and is entangled in a secret love-affair with the local inn-keeper, Wildeve.

Thomasin and Middleman essential to the story: The main plot namely the growth of love between Clym and Eustacia, their marriage, the conjugal unhappiness of the two and the drowning tragedy follows a logical course, despite certain flaws. (Describe their love-affair and the role of these two characters in the main story.
The role of Egdon Heath: as previously studied

Dramatic Scenes: describe Mrs. Yeobright’s haste towards Thomasin’s marriage, her death, the Reddleman’s sudden appearance at the game of dice between Cantle and Wildeve, the bitter quarrel between Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright are all the dramatic senses.

Faults and Lapses: The plot construction, however, is not perfect. It suffers from several flaws. Some of the devices used by Hardy are rather crude and some of the incidents and accidents are quite unconvincing that a shrewd woman like Mrs., Yeobright could have trusted a simpleton like Christian Cantle with a considerable sum of money. It is hard to believe that luck, at the game of dice, should first favor Wildeve and then the reddleman. The whole visit of Mrs. Yeobright to her son’s home is quite unconvincing. Another feature of the novel which could be termed as a fault is the numerous comments that Hardy makes in the course of the narrative. These comments are uncalled for and irrelevant.