Return Of Native
The entire opening chapter of The Return of the Native is devoted to a lengthy
description of Egdon Heath, the setting of the novel. The heath must be
significant in terms of the themes and the continue progress of the novel. The
author of the novel, Thomas Hardy, made the heath so significant to the point
that it can be look upon as a character like any other in the novel. The
heath’s constant correlation with the plot and its "personality" even
transformed it into the major antagonist of the story. In the opening chapter
the heath is introduced just as how a major character of most novels would be
introduced with detail. In fact, the way Hardy devoted the entire first chapter
just to describe it gives it the level of importance that is over any other
characters in the book. This seems to suggest that the heath is like the"ruler" of the story, it is the King, and it is more powerful than any
person is. The heath demonstrates the idea that fate is more powerful than the
desires of individuals. This theme can be seems throughout the novel. The
biggest effect of this theme is on Eustacia. The fact that Clym delayed sending
his letter to Eustacia, coupled with the fact that Captain Vye unwittingly kept
the letter from Eustacia until it was too late, suggests that perhaps destiny is
against her. It is under the downpour of the rain, on the rugged heath where

Eustacia laments her fate. Eustacia’s own remark, "how destiny is against
me!" (354) and "I have been injured and blighted and crushed by things
beyond my control!" (354) affirm the existence of such a force, the power of
fate. On Egdon Heath, night and darkness comes before its "astronomical
hour" (11). This presents the idea of Egdon Heath’s unchangeable place in
time. This early arrival of darkness gives Egdon Heath a sense of gloom.

Dominance of darkness is clearly ominous and Hardy also says of the heath that
it could "retard the dawn, sadden noon...and intensify the opacity of a
moonless midnight to a cause of shaking and dread" (11-12). It is also
inferred that the Heath itself creates the darkness "the heath exhaling
darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it" (12). This description of
the Heath gives it not only a human like, but in fact, a monster-like quality.

We see an image of a giant creature of darkness breathing out darkness. The
atmosphere or tone created here is verging on evilness. The Heath is as hostile
as it is gloomy. The place is "full of a watchful intentness...for when other
things sank brooding to sleep the heath appeared slowly to awake and listen"
(12). The Heath is personified as some sort of nocturnal predator and in the
later progress of the novel, we see that the Heath is indeed hostile, perhaps"indifferent" would be the appropriate adjective, to the characters.

Mrs.Yeobright\'s journey across the Heath after being turned away by Eustacia
comes to mind. The conditions of the Heath under which Mrs.Yeobright makes her
journey is described as "a torrid attack" (260) and "the sun had branded
the whole heath with its mark" (260). "Brand" suggests pain and possibly
torture and we find this is not far from the truth when Mrs.Yeobright makes her
ill-fated return journey. However, the Heath is at its most hostile and cruel in
darkness. It is in the middle of the night that the climax of the tragedy is
reached, as Eustacia commits suicide amid the ferocity of the storm. In the
opening chapter there is a forewarning of this, as we learn of the Heath that"the storm was its lover and the wind its friend" (13). As mentioned before,
it is appropriate to describe the Heath as \'indifferent\'. There is a feeling of
helplessness that runs through the novel, as the characters fall prey to chance
or fate. The tone is ironic, because we are watching the actions of the
characters with superior knowledge. For instance, Clym\'s blaming himself for his
mother\'s death is ironical: he does not know the conditions responsible for it
and he is unaware that his mother did indeed call on him. It is possible to read
this helplessness and irony as a result of the Heath\'s indifference to the
characters. It is also an intended theme: man lives his life in a universe that
is at least indifferent to him and may be hostile. The opening chapter is
without doubt the most significant in terms of showing this.