The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

Historical and Cultural Context

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.

A. 1850

B. 1860

C. 1878

D. 1890

A. London

B. Egdon Heath

C. Bath

D. New York

A. The Renaissance

B. The Enlightenment

C. The Victorian era

D. The Modern era

A. The works of Charles Darwin

B. The works of William Shakespeare

C. The works of Jane Austen

D. The works of Edgar Allan Poe

DISCUSSION:  In The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy contrasts rural life with industrialisation. How do you see this conflict in today's society?

Further reading

1. Malton, Sara A. "The Woman Shall Bear Her Iniquity": Death as Social Discipline in Thomas Hardy's" The Return of the Native." Studies in the Novel 32.2 (2000): 147-164. This paper investigates the social consequences of death and its role as a disciplinary mechanism within the society portrayed.

2. O'hara, Patricia. "Narrating the native: Victorian anthropology and Hardy's the return of the native." Nineteenth Century Contexts 20.2 (1997): 147-163. This article delves into the interplay between Victorian anthropology and the portrayal of local cultures and people. 

3. Paterson, John. "The Return of the Native as antichristian document." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 14.2 (1959): 111-127. This work argues that The Return of the Native is a critique of Christian norms and values, classifying it as an antichristian document.

4. Pinck, Joan B. "The reception of Thomas Hardy's" The return of the native"." (1969). This work discusses the initial public and critical reaction to The Return of the Native, providing a historical perspective on its reception.

5. Schweik, Robert C. "Theme, Character, and Perspective in Hardy's" The Return of the Native"." Philological Quarterly 41.4 (1962): 757. This article dissects the primary themes, characters, and narrative perspectives in The Return of the Native, analysing how they contribute to the novel's overall impact.