The Story In Brief
Eustacia Vye, a nineteen-year-old, sultry beauty, has one compelling desire: to marry a man worthy of her and to travel to exotic distant lands with him as her cavalier. Living on Egdon Heath, she has only one possible candidate: Damon Wildeve, keeper of the village inn, a former civil engineer who somehow failed in his profession. Wildeve and Eustacia Vye have equally uncurbed passionate natures. They seem to thrive on tormenting each other-now passionately loving, now passionately hating. Wildeve, however, has a roving eye which has been caught by the innocent simplicity of Thomasin Yeobright. She is not one to be trifled with, and he has asked her to marry him; but at church on the wedding day, whether by his intent, or by his mistake, the license proves invalid. Eustacia is overjoyed at the news, thinking Wildeve is so much in love with her that he cannot marry another.
Thomasin Yeobright, however, has a protector, Diggory Venn. Diggory is in love with Thomasin. He has earlier proposed to her but has been gently refused. Diggory determines that she shall have the man she wants. He and Mrs. Yeobright, Thomasin’s aunt, contrive separately and together, to bring about the delayed wedding.
Eustacia, confronted with an actual proposal of marriage from Wildeve, cannot bring herself to believe him good enough for her; neither can she bring herself to accept what she considers second place, since Thomasin received his first proposal of marriage.
The arrival of Clym Yeobright, Mrs. Yeobright’s son, stirs Eustacia’s spirit of adventure. Clym’s business is in Paris. Bright lights glitter in Eustacia’s mind. Clym is well-educated and well-to-do; he is her knight-in -armor come to rescue her; Thomasin, his earlier sweetheart, must not get him. Eustacia joins the schemers to bring about the postponed wedding of Thomasin and Damon Wildeve. Meanwhile Mrs. Yeobright, by telling Wildeve of another suitor who wants Thomasin, rekindles his desire for her. Diggory Venn, by admitting himself the other suitor, and Eustacia Vye, by spurning Wildeve’s proposal to her, send Wildeve, in a pique, to set a date with Thomasin.
Thomasin marries Wildeve. Wildeve thinks he is having revenge on Eustacia, but Eustacia is happy to have Thomasin removed as a rival for Clym Yeobright’s affections. When Clym marries Eustacia, despite his mother’s disapproval of the “hussy,” he has to move from his mother’s house because of the rift, and the wedding is without her blessing or presence.
Eustacia has heard Clym say that he wants to stay on the health and become a teacher, but she cannot believe that anyone who has been to Paris will not go back there. By the end of their honeymoon, however, she realizes his firm resolve never to go back. Clym plunges deeper into his studies to hasten his becoming a teacher, and thus ruins his eyesight. Unable to read for months, he finds in furze-cutting (cutting bushes on the heath) an occupation which enables him to keep his self-respect. Eustacia, however, is humiliated and in despair.
Clym’s mother, learning of his misfortune through Diggory Venn (the ever-watchful one), is persuaded to relent and go to call on the couple. Through a mistake, however, no one answers her knocks, though she knows her son, his wife, and another man are in the house. She stumbles back over the heath in the broiling sun, to be found later by her son in a state of exhaustion from which she dies.
Clym is ill and broken-hearted for weeks. He cannot understand how his mother could have been turned from his door thinking she was cast off by her son, as a neighbor boy reports. He blindly blames himself and will not be comforted. Finally he learns that it all happened while he was taking his mid-day nap. Eustacia has a visitor with her and, thinking Clym had roused to answer his mother’s knock, had not gone to the door. Clym demands to know who the visitor was. Eustacia will not say. Clym, beside himself with rage and grief, says things that drive Eustacia from the cottage back to her grandfather’s house at Mistover.
Eustacia meets secretly with Wildeve, who has now inherited a considerable sum of money. He agrees to help Eustacia escape to the seaport, inwardly planning to escape with her. She still has her dream of Paris; he relishes the thought of an illicit elopement with her.
Thomasin suspects the plan and goes to Clym, her cousin, for help. He sets forth to intercept the pair; Thomasin goes on to ask help of Diggory Venn. Diggory and Thomasin go together to the place where Clym and Wildeve have met-on the heath road beside the river. Suddenly they all hear a dull thud and soon discover that Eustacia, overwhelmed by the futility of it all, has slipped or flung herself into the water to drown. Wildeve and Clym Yeobright both swim to rescue her. All three are finally dragged from the water by Diggory Venn. Eustacia and Wildeve are dead, but Clym is revived.
Hardy’s sixth book of the novel, written at the demand of his public, has Thomasin, now a widow, marry her faithful lover, Diggory Venn. Clym Yeobright plunges on alone through life in his chosen professions of teaching and preaching.
Summary: Hardy, the architect, has a masterly way of building his characters almost stone by stone:
1. In the first chapter we meet the heath – and the heath alone.
2. In the second chapter we meet two “unknown” persons (and a concealed third). The heath is sketched again, this time through the eyes of one of the “unknowns,” the reddleman. We see the shadow of the heroine.
3. The third chapter introduces us to the common folk of the heath. We take part in their heath revels; we hear their gossip about the “gentry.” Thus indirectly we get to know about the major characters without yet encountering them as such. The reddleman appears again briefly, and we get a glimpse of Mrs. Yeobright.
4. The fourth chapter gives us Mrs. Yeobright. As she meets Diggory Venn and finds her niece, Thomasin, in his van, the plot of the story begins to unravel.
5. Chapter Five adds to our understanding of Mrs. Yeobright and Thomasin, and introduces Wildeve. Wildeve, we decide, is going to be a character ruled by emotions. In this chapter we have an accumulation of most of the heath people we have met so far – a sort of summing up.
6. Chapter Six introduces Eustacia Vye, the sultry heroine. The plot intrigue is revealed as we listen in on Eustacia’s meeting with Wildeve.
7. In Chapter Seven, Hardy builds for us a powerful word picture of Eustacia Vye.
8. Chapter Eight helps the story by getting Diggory Venn into the plot. He must save his heroine from the villain. (His heroine is Thomasin; his villain is Eustacia.)
9. Chapter Nine reveals Venn’s love for Thomasin.
10. The remaining chapters shows us the strategy: Mrs. Yeobright fences with Wildeve; Diggory Venn fences with Eustacia Vye; Eustacia Vye and Damon Wildeve fence with each other. The ingenuous Thomasin stays unobtrusively in the background. Book One has developed all the characters of the heath to the point where we are ready for the grand entrance of the hero: Clym Yeobright, the Native who Returns-from Paris.
Summary: Hardy builds his plot almost architecturally; in this book it develops thought by thought in the mind of Eustacia Vye:
1. Eustacia hears of Clym Yeobright through the heath men’s gossip. She decides he is worthy of her.
2. Thomasin reveals her determination to marry Wildeve. She unknowingly aids Eustacia’s plan by requesting secrecy. Clym must not know of Wildeve’s connection with her.
3. Eustacia’s passionate nature is aroused by hearing Clym’s voice. We realize that Clym loves the heath. Knowing Eustacia’s hatred of the heath, we wonder if she will get what she wants from Clym. We feel sure she is going to get him – but will she get Paris, also?
4. Eustacia schemes to get a look at Clym (who is still only a voice to her). She arranges to go to Mrs. Yeobright’s party with the mummers, disguised as the Turkish Knight.
5. The actual production of the Mummers’ Play, St. George and the Turkish Knight, parallels the Guy Fawkes Day celebration as a custom of the country.
6. Eustacia, at the party, has her opportunity to see Clym. Now it is his turn to be lured by a voice – the voice of the Turkish Knight, who refuses his offer of refreshments and who, he decides, is a woman. He follows her outside to learn her identity. She strengthens her cause by refusing to reveal herself, leaving him with his curiosity aroused, convinced that she is a cultured and fascinating woman.
7. Eustacia now plots skillfully to get rid of Wildeve and Thomasin, so that her way is clear to get Clym.
8. Thomasin marries Wildeve; Eustacia, with great satisfaction, gives her away.
Summary: The plot now becomes ever more melodramatic as Hardy uses Mrs. Yeobright’s great bitterness toward Eustacia and Wildeve, Wildeve’s compelling desire for revenge, and Eustacia’s dramatic passion for life-to show how the bad passions of people can influence the lives of good, reasonable individuals like Clym and Thomasin.
1. Clym Yeobright is revealed as a thoughtful young man, bent on fitting into his right niche in life. He will give up the diamond business and live at home as a teacher.
2. Clym reveals his plan to his mother, who disapproves. He schemes to see Eustacia Vye.
3. Clym meets Eustacia and falls in love. He and his mother become estranged by his determination to marry Eustacia.
4. Eustacia accepts Clym’s proposal.
5. Mrs. Yeobright hears of the engagement and speaks harshly to Clym. He goes to Eustacia. They agree to marry in two weeks.
6. Clym packs his things and leaves his mother’s house. He rents a small cottage about five miles away and moves in. The wedding day is to be June twenty-fifth. Mrs. Yeobright is inconsolable; she tells Thomasin of the guineas she has to divide between Thomasin and Clym.
7. The wedding takes place. Mrs. Yeobright entrusts Christian with the guineas to take to Thomasin and Clym. He loses them to Wildeve in a dice game.
8. Diggory Venn wins the guineas back from Wildeve and presents them to Thomasin from her aunt, believing they are all hers.
Summary: Book Fourth gives us action ever mounting to the crisis, which is the death of Clym’s mother.
1. Mrs. Yeobright goes to see Eustacia at Mistover. The two women quarrel and part with great bitterness.
2. 2. Having almost lost his eyesight, Clym finds peace of mind in becoming a furze-cutter. Eustacia is crushed and humiliated by his occupation.
3. Eustacia goes to the village picnic and dances with Wildeve. Diggory Venn sees Wildeve bringing her home.
4. Diggory Venn employs simple but effective means to thwart Wildeve’s attempts to see Eustacia. Venn goes to Mrs. Yeobright to urge her to visit her son, while Clym urges Eustacia to welcome his mother if she comes to see them.
5. Mrs. Yeobright sets forth to visit Clym.
6. Eustacia, thinking Clym has awakened to do it, and shielding herself and Wildeve, does not answer Mrs. Yeobright’s knock. Mrs. Yeobright staggers back over the heath, thinking she has been cast out.
7. Clym, waking from a bad dream, determines to visit his mother immediately. He finds her unconscious as he walks over the heath.
8. Mrs. Yeobright dies of exhaustion. Johnny Nunsuch reports her last words: that she has been cast out by her son.
Summary: Everything now leads to the downfall of the characters ruled mainly by their instinctive passions. The deaths of Eustacia and Wildeve mark the end of the passionate action that overwhelms reason.
1. Clym grieves night and day, not understanding why his mother died thinking he had cast her off.
2. Clym learns that his mother had forgiven him and had come to see him, but was turned away from the door.
3. Clym accuses Eustacia. She leaves Clym’s house.
4. Etstacia goes to Mistover and is cared for solicitously by Charley.
5. Charley builds a November fifth bonfire, thus summoning Wildeve. Wildeve and Eustacia plan to escape.
6. Thomasin urges Clym to make up with Eustacia. He writes her a warm, loving letter, but delays in sending it.
7. Eustacia, not having received Clym’s letter, goes to meet Wildeve.
8. Thomasin warns Clym of a possible elopement. He goes to stop it. Thomasin also tells Diggory Venn, who goes too.
9. Eustacia, realizing she has no money to get to Paris by herself, wanders despondently over the heath in the dark and is drowned. Clym and Wildeve go to her rescue, but it is Diggory Venn who drags all three from the water. Eustacia and Wildeve are past resuscitation, but Clym is revived.
Hardy has finished his novel’s cycle with the rounding out of a complete year-November to November. This is the end of his story. But his readers demand a sequel, so the author obliges with Book Sixth.
Summary: Book Sixth is anticlimax. The novel was first published in installments, and Hardy’s readers demanded a sequel – they wanted to know what became of the survivors, and especially that Diggory Venn was rewarded in his devotion to Thomasin. Thomasin must marry her faithful lover. Clym may be left alone, but he must be free to pursue his dearest ambitions.
1. Clym invites Thomasin to move to Blooms-End. Diggory Venn comes calling.
2. Thomasin and Diggory have a talk that Diggory says “makes it easier for us to be friendly.
3. Thomasin asks Clym’s approval of her marriage to Diggory Venn. After some pondering, he gives it.
4. Thomasin and Diggory Venn are married. They leave Clym Yeobright to live alone in his old home, and to solace his soul with teaching and preaching. Hardy completes the novel’s cycle this time with the final Rainbarrow scene. Once more, as in the opening scene of the novel, Rainbarrow is aswarm with heath folk, gathered this time to hear Clym preach.