The characterization of Eustasia Vye, the Heroine of Hardy's "The Return of the Native"



Introduction: The plot of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native is cinematically constructed, without doubt; but the book is one of the most delightful domestic tales ever written. The charm, the humor, the wholesome details, the fidelity to truth, the individuality of the characters and the nature all these give it a cherished place on our library shelves. Most notably the character of Eustasia Vye lives for ever in our heart.  We must be discussing the many side-lights upon the character of Eustasia. There are many choice parts in the novel that carry worth mentioning many times.

The author is splendidly at home in this novel; and here is better opportunity to study the role of Eustasia Vye, the growth or deterioration of character, and the influence of environment on her.In studying Eustasia Vye, we must be led to revel in the queer little incidents that betray the times and to enjoy the gentle satire and delicate humor. Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native has two distinct characters: one Egdon Heath and another Eustasia Vye who are sharply contrasted: the sombre adventures of Egdon Heath which is ready to over through any misadventures and Eustasia Vye, a colorful but wayward reprehensible girl, negatively good.




Eustacia is a local woman and one of the major characters of the novel. She is exotic, beautiful, ambitious, and eager to leave Egdon Heath. Much of the action in this story revolves around the fact that men find Eustacia so unnaturally attractive that there are even rumors of her being a witch. Born and raised in the seaside resort of Budmouth, Eustacia’s father was a musician from the island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea. Eustacia was educated and raised in a cosmopolitan environment, but after her parents died her grandfather brought her to Egdon Heath.

The Queen of the Night: Eustacia is so called because of her fondness of walking at night in Egdon. In her appearance also Hardy bestows some nocturnal qualities. Her eyes possessed nocturnal mystery. Her hair contained more darkness than that of cold wintry night. And above all, Eustacia’s presence to the dark heath almost increased the beauty of the night. Eustacia is a local woman and one of the major characters of the novel. She is exotic, beautiful, ambitious, and eager to leave Egdon Heath. Much of the action in this story revolves around the fact that men find Eustacia so unnaturally attractive that there are even rumors of her being a witch. Born and raised in the seaside resort of Budmouth, Eustacia’s father was a musician from the island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea. Eustacia was educated and raised in a cosmopolitan environment, but after her parents died her grandfather brought her to Egdon Heath.

She is forced to find the excitement she craves in her relationships with men. She has an affair with Wildeve, but cuts it off after he breaks his engagement to Thomasin. She falls in love with Clym before meeting him, almost solely on the fact that he had a successful career in Paris. While courting, Clym is adamant about the fact that he plans to stay in the country and open a small school, but Eustacia believes she can change his mind later. When Clym takes a job cutting furze, Eustacia resents him.

Soon after Eustacia marries, Wildeve inherits a fortune. Eustacia feels she has married the wrong man. This feeling intensifies when Clym accuses her of causing his mother's death. Wildeve offers to take her away, but Eustacia insists on remaining faithful to her wedding vows. She does accept a ride to the port town. Tragically, she drowns in the reservoir, and there is a question whether her death might have been a suicide.

Physically, Eustacia is described as "full limbed and somewhat heavy; without rudiness as without pallor; and soft to the touch as a cloud". To see her hair is to imagine that a whole winter does not darkness enough to form its shadow. Her Pagan eyes were full with nocturnal mysteries. Her mouth seems formed less to speak than to quiver, less to quiver than to kiss. Someone might have added less to kiss than to curl. So fine are the lines of her lips that, though full, each corner of her mouth is as clearly cut as the paint of a spear. Her presence brings memories of such things such as Bourbon Rose, Tropical Midnights and Rubies. Her moods recall lotus-eaters and the march in "Athalie". Her motion suggests the ebb and flow of the sea and her voice reminds one of a musical instrument.

The Great Fall:‘Egdon was her Hades’
             ‘Hades’ in Greek mythology is the underworld or hell. It carries the sense of hellish torture and suffering.
             For Eustacia Egdon Heath is as troubles once a place as hell.
             Eustacia hates Egdon. Since she was taken from Budmouth to Egdon. She disliked the change. She always finds it antagonistic.
Budmouth was Eustacia’s native place. Eustacia is the daughter of bandmaster of a regiment. After the death of her mother Eustacia’s father left off thriving and drank too much and ultimately he also died. So Eustacia was left to the care of the grandfather who used to live at Egdon Heath. Since wreck, her grandfather started living Egdon Heath along with Eustacia. Eustacia's native place was not Egdon but Budmouth, a fasionable sea-side resort at that time. She came to egdon with her grandfather after the death of her father. Eustacia hated the change from Budmouth to Egdon, and she felt like a one banished;but here was she forced to live. Much of her discontentment and unhappiness of her life is due to her life in Egdon. She tell to Wildeve regarding the heath,"'tis my cross, my shame,and will be the cause of my death". And her words prove prophetic.


i)                    The love of Heloise and Abelara are debrated for its constancy and purity. In contrast, Cleopatra, who is said to have cohabited with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, is an emblem of deception.
ii)                   Eustacia will sit between them.
iii)                 The expression suggests that Eustacia bears the pure and faithful love in her mind like Heloise while sometimes her love flicker’s like Cleopatra. Thus she rests between both the extremity of pure and unfaithful love.


i)                    The ‘high Gods’ of Eustacia were William the Conqueror, the Earl of Strafford and Nepolian Buonaparte.
ii)                   Her selection of such heroes indicates her unconventional nature. The heroes she selected are all notorious persons. Hence Eustacia’s selection of heroes in unconventional.


            Eustacia here compares herself to the ‘Witch of Endor’.
            It is a biblical reference where it is told that the witch of Endor called up the dead Samuel to prophecy on the death of Saul and the passing of his kingdom to David. Eustacia here suggests that she possesses, like the witch of Endor, to call Wildeve. She has that power over him. The comparison indicates that Eustacia is a proud woman with a lot of confidence on her power.

Conclusion: Tragically, Eustacia drowns in the reservoir, and there is a question whether her death might have been a suicide. However, there is no doubt that she had been the most desired fiction queen of the 19th century British novel.

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