The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy
The Return of the Native Theme of Pride
Pride is the worst of the seven deadly sins for a reason (so says Dante, among others) – it leads to a ton of problems, not just for the prideful person but for the people around them. Pride and stubbornness are primary motivators (and failings) for Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright – two characters who most harshly learn that pride can lead people to despair. The main way this occurs is through missed human connections – characters often refuse to reach out and speak to one another on account of their pride. As a result, people are often hurt and lonely in this book. We see this happen with Mrs. Yeobright and Clym, who each refuse to reach out and reconcile with the other until it's too late.
But The Return of the Native really questions what people have to be prideful about in the first place. If the heath tries to teach people anything, it's humility. Being human isn't much to brag about in this novel – people are dwarfed by forces in the world around them, are shown to be chock-full of faults, and generally end up doing themselves more harm than good. As such, the pride of these characters often contrasts with the narrator's take on their actual circumstances.
Questions About Pride
- Are there any characters without a lot of pride here or is that a universal trait? In what ways does excessive pride cause problems in the story?
- The heath is often characterized as a person and given physical and emotional traits. Does the heath itself have pride or suffer from an excess of it?
- Are there any examples of pride being a good trait in the novel? For instance, how does pride play a potentially good role in Eustacia's reluctance to elope with Damon?
- What does the portrayal of the main characters and their behavior tell us about the novel's overall stance on pride? What exactly is pride in this novel?
Chew on This
Pride, more than any other trait, links Eustacia and Mrs. Yeobright together.
Diggory is much more prideful than he seems. His choice of profession might appear humble, but it's really a sign of wounded pride, even more than a broken heart.
Clym is very prideful, even more than Eustacia.