How Does Egdon Heath Act As A Character In Novel “Return Of The Native”. As a deep and extensive analysis of any novel of Hardy shows that in Hardy‘s novels, much significance or importance is also given to a place only. Same is the case of the novel “The Return of the Native” and it is rightly said to be dubbed as the book of Egdon Heath. This is such a place in the novel which directly or indirectly influences the life of the various characters in the novels. This also moves them to love or hate, to despair or to the philosophic mind. In fact, this place of Egdon Heath lies in the philosophic imagination of Hardy: it is
“perfectly accordant with man’s nature – neither hateful, nor ugly, neither commonplace, nor tame; but, like man slighted and enduring.”
As it is observed in most of the novels of Hardy that a place is personified of “Nature” the same thing we observe in this novel in which Egdon is the personification of nature and Hardy is habitual of producing such symbolic characters. Hardy himself was the product of Egdon Heath and lived on the fringes of Egdon Heath. That’s why he was perfectly familiar with the surroundings and the environments of Heath.
This very place not only provides the background to the novel but it also acts an important character in the novel which not only shapes the destiny of the other characters but also directs their lives. Around about half of the novel has been written according to the changing moods and colours of the nature of the Heath and to the reactions of the main characters. towards it. The darkness of natural surroundings has always been playing its role in the lives of Hardy‘s characters. It is also observed in this novel that the dark atmosphere of Heath had also influenced the lives and destinies of those who dwell permanently and contentedly amid its wilderness.
Egdon Heath is not only a place in this novel but also gives or presents the reflection of Hardy’s own life. It always affects the lives of those severely who are not adjusted or settled in its natural surroundings or atmosphere. Those who are sick of its rough environment say that they can not utilize their potential and talent here. As it is known and said that Egdon Heath also reflects the glimpses of Hardy’s own life at a large scale and actually Egdon Heath symbolises the whole universal order in which man is but an insignificant and fickle particle. This Egdon Heath also serves as the personification of Nature and it even feels the sufferings of its dwellers and contributes to their happiness and unhappiness.
It is very right to say that the interpretation of the novel is incomplete without describing Heath as it holds the action of the novel. Its main role is to stress the real circumstances in which man lives because Egdon Heath presents an extended image of the nature of which man is a part; in which he is succumbed to or caught and ultimately which cares nothing for him. Analytically speaking, it can be stated that man’s life in relation to it, is as short-lived as the bonfires which the peasants make of the furze that grows on the Heath. According to Hardy‘s point of view, Heath presents man both historically and geologically.
It is also a source of livelihood of the inhabitants of its surroundings who are its furze-cutters. As it is said that Heath plays an important role in the action of the novel and influences the principal characters of this story. This very thing or fact is very evident from the lives of Clym and Eustacia. Eustacia hates it a lot while Clym loves it a lot and this very great difference of opinions of both plays a vital role in their lives and a gulf between them is erupted which gradually starts increasing with the incidents and experiences and results in their separation.
Clym who was born in Egdon Heath and being the product of it, is absolutely familiarized with its surroundings but on the contrary to it; Eustasia is being outsider, has not been born and bred there and its environment always pinched and tortured her forever. Clym, on the other hand, is very much attracted and fascinated by the same environment and he always considers it as a paradise to live. That’s why, he leaves the fashionable and colourful life of Paris and returns to his native place of Egdon Heath. Eustacia who is discontented to the life of Heath and always dreams of living in the life of Paris and about Heath she has always worthless and cheap views which she utters as:
“Tis my cross, my shame, and will be my death.”
Her words prove to be prophetic and death indeed kills her. In comparison of Clym with reddleman who is also its spirit while Clym is the child of Egdon and always feels himself as a part of Heath and wants to serve it as much as possible because he has a great respect and love for his mother homeland. The reddleman knows every nook and corner of the Heath and remains hand-in-glove with Heath. Though he is also in close relation with Heath as Clym is yet we see that Heath plays no tricks or ironies on him. In the case of some major characters, Heath plays as a part of an enemy. It plays a huge and great damage to Mrs. Yeobright and at last kills her at its bosom.
In addition to this, it also influences the plot construction of the novel as most of the major and crucial. events occur on Heath. The game of dice, the incident of quarrel between Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright, the event of a lighting bonfire occurs on Egdon Heath. At last, the rain-swept and storm-beaten Heath kills both Eustacia and Mrs. Yeogbright.
To sum up this above mentioned discussion, it can be said straightforwardly and forcefully that Egdon Heath not only provides the plot of the novel but also, it provides foreground to it. It is by virtue of it that the story is given a dramatic twist and touch because it has successfully and skillfully been incorporated or woven into the formation of the story. Heath is actually a joint point where all the characters meet, plan and quarrel. So, we see that all the activities and roles of all the activities and roles of all the characters begin, grow to the climax, to the anticlimax and then decline to their finalization.