Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native was published in 1878.
The novel is set in Egdon Heath, a fictional moor in Wessex in southwestern England. Hardy's Wessex is based on the real Dorset, where he was born and raised. Hardy's works often feature a strong connection to the rural landscape. This was influenced by his upbringing in a rural area, where he observed the traditions, dialects, and hardships of rural life.
The Victorian era (1837-1901), during which Hardy wrote, was a time of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. There was a romanticised longing for traditional rural life, which Hardy tapped into.
Hardy's novel reflects the conflict between traditional rural life and the encroachment of modernity and industrialisation.
He is known for his critical view of Victorian society, particularly its strict moral codes and class divisions, evident in The Return of the Native.
Hardy's works are often imbued with a sense of fatalism and pessimism, a perspective likely influenced by the works of Charles Darwin, which had challenged many established religious and social assumptions in the 19th century.
The Return of the Native also incorporates elements of Greek tragedy, with Hardy's characters suffering as a result of flaws in their nature and cruel turns of fate.
Hardy was criticised for his candid depiction of sexual and romantic relationships in his novels, which was seen as controversial in the repressed Victorian era.
In The Return of the Native, Hardy explores themes like the individual versus society, the power of nature, the folly of ambition, and the often tragic consequences of passion and desire.