Is Thomas Hardy A Pessimist? An extensive study of most of the novels shows Hardy‘s outlook as a pessimistic one. As some critics are of the view that Hardy always presents the darker side of life, and his most of the characters are victims of the cruel clutches of hostile nature. That’s why, different critics dub it differently. As far as the appeal of this novel “The Return of the Native” is concerned, is presented in the words of pessimism and fatalism. Hardy’s novels present his philosophy of life at a very large scale.
Being pessimist, he always believes that man is born to suffer and he is fatalistic because he believes that destiny is always hostile to man and that it governs over human life. He is of the firm views that a man is not free or not the master of his fate in this universe. It is very evident from the characters and their ending of the lives of Tess, Clym and Eustasia who could not live and move independently and freely.
In our religion Islam and some other major religions of the universe, it is believed that man is born with a will or an authority of doing good or bad. But we see in Hardy‘s novels that man becomes the puppet in the cruel clutches of fate and circumstances which always go against him because man is miserable and helpless against the powers of nature. It does not mean that he is however a cynic because he is also of the view that this good and noble being is always fighting against the cruel circumstances and forces of the universe.
Hardy never ever thought and considered
“life to be a boon rather he believes that happiness is an occasional episode in a general drama of life.”
Hardy‘s vision of life is that life is basically tragic and the chance of escape is very rare or remote. These are accidents or coincidences which always aggravate man’s tragedy because nature is not friendly to man forever rather it is a foe to him and is always on the verge of a negative role of destroying him forever. “In the Return of the Native,” we always see that tragedy happens due to the weaknesses and faults of the characters themselves.In addition to it, hostile circumstances and forces of nature also play a very integral role in shaping them into very miserable conditions.
As far as the case of Clym is considered, it is entirely different because of his soft nature, he likes to serve his fellow human beings by providing education to them. He had not been a materialistic and worldly type of man because he left the fashionable life of Paris and returned to his native place Egdon Heath in order to lead a calm, soothing and natural life. Apart from these good qualities, Clym has also his own shortcomings which are responsible for his unhappiness. It is his inability when he fails to perceive Eustacia‘s unsuitability as a wife as she is a girl of naturalism and worldly pleasures and ornaments. There is a huge gulf between the nature and temperament of both.
His mother is very right in calling her as “an idle, voluptuous · woman”. He fell in love with her & married her but he had failed to keep her happy and satisfied. The reason being, she is of different nature and wants to lead a fashionable city life of a big city. Clym, being a fellow of simple, sober and noble nature fails to keep a balance between his mother and his wife. It is really his major fault that firstly he is inclined to his wife wholeheartedly and later he becomes inclined towards his mother. This shows that he is a man of uncertain and unbalance nature who is unable to maintain balance between his duties to wife and mother. In short, it can be stated that Clym is indeed as unsuitable for Eustasia as she is for him.
As far as the case of Eustasia‘s personality is concerned, her own temperament is largely responsible for her tragedy. She always dream of living in the advanced fashionable life in Paris and was firstly impressed by the personality of Clym only by watching his personality who recently came back from the artificial life of Paris. So she chooses Clym for her life partner by thinking and expecting that he would fulfill her desires. First, she claims to live even in hermitage with Clym but being unable to subdue her longing feels miserable on Egdon Heath, a place which is a paradise for Clym to live. She cannot accept Clym’s humble occupation as a furze cutter and she is always inconsistent and fickle-minded. Her weak and unstable nature is revealed to us when she even becomes unfaithful to Clym only by being tempted by Wildeve.
She never ever thought of serving her mother-in-law which is her moral duty. Her mother-in-law is a respectable mother but she proves to be a rigid and obstinate type of lady and creates problems for her daughter-in-law and her son. She is also responsible for the tragedy. The even does not take part in the welfare works of Clym. Clym opens a school in Egdon Heath in order to educate the people of the area.
Instead of supporting and helping in his humanitarian projects, she starts opposing these educational plans of Clym and in this way she produces a gulf between him and herself. Most of the time, she finds faults and taunts Eustasia who is the beloved wife of Clym. She does not have the least kindness and love of human nature towards Eustasia.
As far as the personality of Wildeve is concerned, he proves to be a villain is certainly a character of creating many problems which the various characters face. He is a man of sexual lust and keeps on changing loyalties. Owing to the influence of his evil nature and sexual lust, he cannot maintain the balance between the relations of two women. That’s why he marries one of them but keeps on having relations with the other. He makes the matters complicated when he tries to revive his relations with Eustasia who does not marry him at first.
In addition to the characters, the situations are also responsible for the tragedy in “The Return of the Native.” We also observe that it is the difference of opinions between the two major characters of Clym & Eustasia which causes the tragedy. It is the place of Egdon Heath where their true nature and temperaments are revealed to us. Clym loves Egdon Heath by the cores of his heart and considers it as a paradise to live but Eustasia hates this very place the most. This very situation caused of tragedy a lot.
There is also another incongruity between Clym and his mother which also aggravates the tragedy. Though both of them love one another very much yet their purposes and views of life are different from one another. It is the death of Clym’s mother which serves as a stamp of antagonism between them and the role which was played by Wildeve, made the tragedy much grimmer and heavy.
Now we come towards the very integral and important role of destiny which is always very evident in shaping and reshaping Hardy‘s character in the novel. In this novel, we see that the role of destiny makes the tragedy heavier. How the hostility of destiny plays its role in the life of a loving couple who suffers dis adjustment on the account of their different attitudes of life.
Apart from this, there are also many accidents and co-incidents which make the tragedy possible. How it is coincident that Clym’s mother happens to come to her son for reconciliation when Wildeve is already there and is talking with Eustasia. Clym who is sleeping in the room and it is also by chance that Eustasia does not attend the knocking of door of Mrs. Yeobright just on thinking that Clym‘ is present in the room and would open the door but unfortunately he is sleeping and Mrs. Yeobright could not be attended by them. She goes back in a furious and angry mood, is bitten by an adder and dies but before doing she tells everything to Johnny.
How chance plays its role here instead of meeting both, Johnny meets Clym. by chance and tells him all whatever Mrs. Yeobright has said to him. Clym starts quarreling with Eustasia and drives her out. It is once again ill-fate of Clym that he writes a letter to her to come back but the letter is not reached or received by her and miscarried. Clym, who is unaware of this, starts waiting for her knock by sitting alone. As he hears the footsteps, he suddenly and eagerly opens the door and finds Thomiosin there who informs him of Eustasia‘s flight with Wildeve and this very flight serves as the end with their death.
To conclude this above mentioned discussion, it can be said forcefully that all Eustasia‘s meetings with Wildeve after her marriage have been accidental and these are all accidents which add to the events of the tragedy of the novel. In Hardy‘s novels in which nature always plays a role of living agent in the lives of human beings, here, in this novel, it is Egdon Heath. On the night of her elopement, Heath is swept by rain and storm , and it kills both Eustasia and her mother-in-law and her lover Wildeve.