Symbolic Significance of Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native

Essay by klute May 2004

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[Abstract]: The Return of the Native is one of Thomas Hardy's "Novels of Character and Environment". This paper mainly deals with the conflict between the main characters in the novel and the "Environment"----Egdon Heath, especially the conflict between Eustacia and the Heath. The Heath as a physical object is described as "inviolate", untouchable and unalterable by man, as a symbol it is highly flexible: it becomes what the various characters want to make of it. It is ugly for Eustacia, beautiful for Clym, comforting for Thomasin, and home for Venn. And it is described differently by the narrator at different times, depending on the perspective of the character being focused on. Besides, Egdon Heath itself is the oldest character. In The Return, Eustacia hates the Heath and wants to escape from it, Clym wants to change it; while Thomasin and Venn are faithful to it; but for Mrs.

Yeobright, she neither loves it nor hates it, she is like a denizen. Whoever you are, if you want to rebel against the Heath, more or less, you will get punishment; on the contrary, you will be happy on the Heath. In brief, the paper chiefly reveals the theme: those who rebel against the nature will be lost.

[Key words]: Egdon Heath Character and Environment Symbolism Punishment

Introduction

"The supreme poet of the English Landscape"1

This is the blurb on the back of a lavishly illustrated biography by Timothy Sullivan that tells us about Thomas Hardy. In the following the writer will explain this phrase. "Poet" here does not mean only "the writer of poetry", it certainly also includes Hardy as a novelist. "The English Landscape" is equally indefinite, for Hardy's work focuses almost exclusively on his native Dorset and its environs in other western country counties. However, "the English...