Study Guide

The Return of the Native Dissatisfaction

By Thomas Hardy


If Eustacia had an iPod with an Egdon Heath playlist, then "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones would be at the top of it. The Stones start off that classic song with, "I can't get no satisfaction." And Eustacia is certainly getting zero satisfaction from living in Egdon Heath. In fact, most of the characters in The Return of the Native are perpetually anxious, restless, dissatisfied, and feeling trapped. This book takes place over just a year, but it seems much longer in terms of our characters' emotional lives and longing – entire epic sagas play out in various individuals' dissatisfaction with life. We can safely say that dissatisfaction is an emotional state that links all the major characters of the novel together.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Are any characters happy or satisfied with their lives here? What sort of effect does the fairly widespread dissatisfaction have on the overall tone of the novel, and how are happy or content characters significant to the story?
  2. What are some of the symptoms of dissatisfaction in the novel, and what do they tell us about the individual characters experiencing them?
  3. How do the imagery and the details of the heath itself contribute to the dissatisfaction of many characters?
  4. How does the language used to describe the heath reflect the dissatisfaction of so many characters?

Chew on This

Eustacia would be dissatisfied no matter where she was – her personality is just naturally negative.

Eustacia is depressed and dissatisfied largely because of the heath; if she had managed to escape to Paris, she would have been happier.