Study Guide

The Return of the Native Book 1, Chapter 6

By Thomas Hardy

Book 1, Chapter 6

The Figure against the Sky

  • We now start following the mysterious woman around.
  • We also seem to have taken a detour into a gothic novel, given all the "windswept mores" description and the "death" imagery. Creepy.
  • Aside from the howling wind and creepy atmosphere, we learn that the woman is very beautiful and has very dark hair and is like some sort of goddess of the night or something.
  • She peers around the moors with a telescope, glances at her hourglass, and sighs a lot.
  • When the hourglass runs out, the woman is surprised. She packs up her stuff and begins trudging off despondently.
  • Finally, she arrives at Captain's Vye's house, where the bonfire is still burning.
  • A young boy named Johnny greets her as "Miss Eustacia," and whines a little about being left alone in the dark.
  • Looks like Eustacia is a lousy babysitter.
  • Captain Vye appears and asks Eustacia what she's doing out and about so late.
  • Eustacia lies and says that little Johnny was really into the bonfire and didn't want to go home yet (except he totally does want to leave).
  • Eustacia tells her story "in a way which told at once that she was absolute queen here" (1.6.35).
  • Captain Vye heads inside and Eustacia bribes Johnny into hanging around longer.
  • Time for a geography lesson! Hardy tells us how close Eustacia's house is to Rainbarrow (the big hill) and Wildeve's house. In detail, as is his way.
  • Finally Johnny pipes up and says that he heard a frog jump into a nearby pond.
  • Eustacia seems overly excited by this fact. She quickly pays Johnny and sends him on his way.
  • And then Wildeve appears on the scene – he had dropped a rock in the pond as a signal.
  • Arranging a meeting was clearly a production in the days before texting.
  • Wildeve and Eustacia are (or were) secretly in love.
  • We're guessing the whole trying-to-marry-Thomasin thing put the kibosh on that romance.
  • The two proceed to argue – Wildeve blames Eustacia for driving him away and being arrogant; Eustacia blames Wildeve for being a flirt and a punk.
  • Eustacia tries to pretend that she doesn't care about Wildeve and that she invited him over because she was just "bored." Wildeve gets touchy.
  • Then Eustacia wavers between being glad Wildeve isn't married and wishing he would just run back to Thomasin already and leave her alone.
  • Wildeve hints that he'll start pursuing Eustacia again. He leaves finally.
  • Eustacia sighs again. "She knew he trifled with her; but she loved on" (1.6.112).