Study Guide

The Return of the Native Book 1, Chapter 3

By Thomas Hardy

Book 1, Chapter 3

The Custom of the Country

  • A group of people are building bonfires on the heath, in celebration of Guy Fawkes Night.
  • Want to read more about Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Night? Well then check out his biography and perhaps a website on the history of the holiday as well. Enjoy!
  • The bonfires and the heath are described in detail.
  • Some old guy is dancing around a bonfire and singing.
  • A group of people, locals of the heath, start gossiping. This group includes Grandfer Cantle, Timothy Fairway, a guy called Humphrey, Olly Dowden, and Susan Nunsuch.
  • Fairway is a gossip and fills us in on the Yeobright family. Apparently Mrs. Yeobright publicly opposed her niece's engagement to a guy named Wildeve and so a big scandal ensued.
  • But she finally caved and this Wildeve chap and Thomasin Yeobright (the niece) apparently went to get married today.
  • Some people thought she'd marry her cousin Clym, but he tromped off to Paris a while ago and is still there working.
  • The group continue to gossip and swap stories about marriage.
  • A sadsack guy named Christian Cantle woefully says that no woman will marry him.
  • Christian's dad is the dancing man, Grandfer Cantle.
  • Timothy Fairway tries to bolster Christian's spirits, but Christian is so pathetic that he doesn't make Fairway's job easy.
  • Since it's dark and they're gathered around a fire, the group begin telling ghost stories.
  • Fairway has seen the reddleman recently and thought it was some sort of creepy, ghost/devil thing.
  • Grandfer Cantle sings another song.
  • The group then spies a nicely burning bonfire near Captain Vye's house. Captain Vye has a granddaughter and the group speculates that it's her bonfire.
  • After gossiping and arguing some more the group starts dancing. Everyone except Christian, at least. Poor guy.
  • The bonfire starts burning out, but everyone is still in high spirits. So they all decide to go over to Wildeve's place, the Quiet Woman Inn, and harass the newly-married couple.
  • But first, the reddleman appears and asks for directions to Mrs. Yeobright's house.
  • Then Mrs. Yeobright shows up. Mrs. Yeobright is about the richest person in Egdon Heath, so she's like heath royalty.
  • Fairway tells her the reddleman was on his way to her house.
  • Meanwhile, Mrs. Yeobright is heading towards Wildeve's place, to see her niece.
  • We learn that her son Clym is coming home for Christmas. In fact, he is returning from some foreign place to his native home (the title is explained!).
  • Mrs. Yeobright asks Olly to walk with her since it's dark and Olly agrees, saying she wanted to head home soon anyway.