Saturday, December 11, 2010

"The Return of the Native": A novel from the pen of a poet

Thomas Hardy was a born poet. He was a poet first and a novelist afterwards. Quite naturally, his novels are rich in the poetic element.

In The Return of the Native this poetic element is seen in his masterly use of poetic prose. Thus the opening chapter of the novel, describing Egdon in all its glory and grandeur, is one of the finest examples of poetic prose in the English language. Equally poetic is the set description of Eustacia as Queen of the Night. Both these piece of description have the cadence and rhythm of poetry. The imagination at the back of the pen, is the imagination of a born poet. Vivid, poetic similes and metaphors come out of Hardy's pen as do sparks from a Chimney fire. His images have the frequency and quality of poetry, rather than of prose. The very conception of Eustacia's character is poetic and only a poet could have imparted epic grandeur and majesty to a desolate heath.
The poetic element in the novel is also seen in various love-signals used by the lovers. Thus the bonfire at the Rainbarrow is signal of love to call Wildeve, and he announces his throwing a stone in the pond like the, "flounce of a frog". Later on, he uses a moth as a signal of love. Equally poetic is the use of an eclipse of the Moon to mark the time for a tryst of love.
However, the poetic element in the novel is best seen a number of poetic scenes scattered all up and down the novel. These poetic scenes serves:
(a) To introduce an element of widerdness. The poetic scene describing Wildeve and Diggory Venn gambling on the dark, lonely Egdon, under the light of glow-worms, present a wicrd. almost uncanny effect. The heath croppers look on ama/ed.
(b) To heighten the pathos and to present a character in poetic terms. The entire scene describing the last journey of Mrs. Yeobright to Clym's house, her return as a broken-hearted woman, and her tragic death, present the tragedy in such an intensified way as to move the hearts of the readers. The journey is vividly and poetically done.
(c) To express typically Hardian Humour, a humour iroaical, almost gruesome. For example, the scene describing Venn's meeting Wideve at the Rainbarrow.
(d) The scenes providing rustic humour. The scenes presenting the chorus of rustics. Grandler Canlle, Christian, Humphrey, Timothy and other Egdon-folk at the Rainbarrow. The bonfire scene provides humour and, though the conversation of these rustics, presents before us the events related to the leading characters of the novel. It is the finest example of rustic humour.
(e) The scene in which Charley holds the hand of Eustacia for fifteen minutes is both ridiculous and pathetic.
(f) The t.agic scenes on the fatal night of November sixth. Eustacia's going out into the stormy Egdon, has been presented in such a way as to raise her to tragic heights. Her last, hopeless wandering on the dark heath reminds us of King Lear on the stormy heath, and the elemental powers of nature hovering over his white heat in all their fury.

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