Study Guide

The Return of the Native Guilt and Blame

By Thomas Hardy

Guilt and Blame

Given the major traits that link the cast of The Return of the Native (dissatisfaction, poor decision-making skills, faulty judgment, depression, pride), it's no wonder that guilt and blame come into play in spades. In particular, these troublesome two define many of the relationships we see here. The bulk of Eustacia and Clym's marriage is dominated by feelings of guilt and blame, especially on Eustacia's part. The notable exception to this guilt-fest is Diggory Venn, who's upset about his situation with Thomasin, but doesn't feel guilty about it. Nor does he really seem to blame Thomasin for her decision not to marry him initially. Diggory may have the right idea here – in the end, guilt and blame usually amount to nothing. It certainly didn't get Eustacia, Clym, or Mrs. Yeobright (the ones doling out the most guilt and blame here) very far in life.

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. What does Clym's eventual job, as an itinerant preacher, tell us about his feelings of guilt and how he deals with them?
  2. How do feelings of guilt and blame further damage relationships in the novel?
  3. Eustacia definitely feels some guilt about the events that led to Mrs. Yeobright's death, but should Eustacia have to accept some of the blame for it? Is she really culpable, from a moral perspective? What does the novel itself seem to think here, or does it not cast judgment either way?
  4. Does Damon ever feel guilt or remorse for any of his bad behavior?

Chew on This

Eustacia handles her own feelings of guilt by blaming her problems on fate or destiny.

Diggory is one of the few characters who doesn't suffer from feelings of guilt or blame; he is sad over his situation with Thomasin, but he doesn't blame her for it, and he doesn't feel guilty about it.