Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Narrative technique of the Return of the Native



Much has been said, pro and con, about Hardy's style in his fiction. It is easy to say he has a clumsy style or an adequate style or an intermittently effective style. A demonstration of some particular aspect of his style is perhaps more useful.

Hardy's narrative style makes use of several kinds of imagery, including a number of figures of speech using analogies drawn from the setting of his story. Consider such a sampling as the following: "Eustacia's journey was at first as vague in direction as that of thistledown in the wind"; "the party had marched in trail, like a traveling flock of sheep; that is to say, the strongest first, the weak and young behind"; "[Grandfer Cantle] also began to sing, in the voice of a bee up a flue"; "Grandfer Cantle meanwhile staring at [Christian] as a hen stares at the duck she has hatched"; "in her winter dress, as now, [Eustacia] was like the tiger-beetle, which, when observed in dull situations, seems to be of the quietest neutral color, but under a full illumination blazes with dazzling splendor"; "[the settle] is, to the hearths of old-fashioned cavernous fireplaces, what the last belt of trees is to the exposed country estate, or the north wall to the garden"; "[Clym] longed for death, as a field laborer longs for the shade"; "Fairway gave a circular motion to the rope, as if he were stirring a batter"; "[Eustacia] had entered the dance from the troubled hours of her late life as one might enter a brilliant chamber after a night walk in a wood"; "the leaves of the hollyhocks hung like half-closed umbrellas." In the first of these, the term carrying the analogy comes from nature; in the second, from the characters' daily activities on the heath.

In short, Hardy's imagery is appropriate to the world of his story and effective in conveying what, at a given moment, he wishes to show, not merely say.

Overview of character function: MrsYeobright, ThomasinYeobright, Diggory Venn and the rustics in general are representative of the intuitive insight, Damon Wildeve of the distracted gaze and EustachiaVye of the idealising vision.  Although the communal perception is tentatively reasserted at the end in the marriage between Diggory and Thomasin, it might be said that the main thrust of the novel lies in the destructive conflict between the idealising vision and the intuitive insight. See pages on individual characters, in drop-down box.

Irony: The novel has ‘less of the irony of life [than ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’] and more of its serious sadness’ (New Quarterly 1879);  Clym loses both women (211); the effect of MrsYeobright’s strategy was ‘in a quarter quite outside her view when arranging it.’ (154); Eustacia had ‘the greatest contempt’ for ‘mummers and mumming’ (178) but becomes one even though she considered local gatherings to be ‘scarcely appertaining to her sphere’; Eustacia and Clym meet on the spot of the fire to attract Wildeve (242); The hut’s light is noticed as Wildeve takes Eustacia’s hand (366); door always open (376) but it is not; MrsYeobright (334) sets out to reconcile her differences with her son but she dies as a result, unreconciled; Thomasin’s child named Eustacia at the moment Clym and Eustacia’s marriage finishes (398); Clym goes to see Wildeve, who has left because of Charlie’s bonfire, leaving Clym to talk with Thomasin (410).  Irony that Little Eustacia protected at the same time that Eustacia dies.

The grotesque and disproportionate are allied with the substantial and the natural. The human merges with the setting, as does the plot, in such events as the dicing by glow-worm light.  Note the allegorical significance of the characters brings the fable into focus. Clym appears as the ‘Spirit of Egdon’, Eustacia as the ‘Witch of Egdon’, Damon Wildeve as her ‘demon lover’, and Diggory Venn as a benign and protective genie who watches over the heath’s inhabitants.  The novel emphasises first one and then another of these dual roles, developing the character and the allegory. The novel is not realistic (‘Art is a disproportioning … of realities.’ Thomas Hardy 1890).

Symbols, imagery and motifs: Bird imagery for Thomasin (271), The symbolic use of the  house at Bloomsend (381); spider on lintel door (381); dead flowers (382); Bonfires; Charlie lights bonfire V iv; Moths 330,moth burnt by the candle 335, deathshead moth (Susan dreams of a death’s head 82 and is afraid of it sucking her blood); Pebble thrown in pond; Clym’s entrance to Blooms-End is ‘at the back for the present’ (471).  Fire/passion symbolism: E’s soul is ‘flame like (119).  The moon at gipsying 322, 326 342 other places.  Use of allusions: Biblical, mythical, Evil: ‘Tis tempting the evil one’ and the snake approx 380.

Patterns and parallels.  The novel concludes with Clym on the same tumulus that Eustacia had stood on; use of minor characters.

First and third person: different responses to different narrators.  Minor characters (as intradiegetic narrators, listed under ‘Narrative’), narrate and give information: Venn narrates Thomasin’s marriage (220) but does not hear everything (223); Christian narrates the Susan Nonsuch&Eustacia events in church (235); Christian  (282); Christian tells Clym that his mother had been on her way to see him (380); Venn narrates the recent events on the heath (432); Charlie relates the wedding celebrations (471/2); Captain Vye on Wildeve’s fortune (362); Johnny Nonsuch tells Clym that his mother ‘was coming away’ (383, 386)

Authorial comment: Omniscient narrator on the nature of Eustacia (118) and also (274) on Wildeve’s ‘To be yearning for the difficult, to be weary of that offered; to care for the remote, to dislike the near; it was Wildeve’s nature always’; cynical comments that marriage cures love (256) and on ‘the mire of marriage’ (394)and, through Clym’s words, ‘the greatest blessings vouchsafed to us are not very valuable’ (316)

Dialogue, dialect and accent: ‘there are dialogues of true and quaint humour’ (Saturday Review 1879).  Examples needed.   The rustic dialogue is not always realistic e.g. Christian says the dice ‘be powerful rulers of us all’

Prophetic: ‘sons must be blind if they will’ (273); ‘he will rue it someday, and think of me’ (276); ‘it was an error which afterwards helped to cause more misfortune than treble the loss in money could have done’ (295);Eustacia: There is evil in store for me.’ (368)

Nature described: wind 104-5 in a musical metaphor.  The rare courser on the heath (141); MrsYeobright’s last journey (351) and when Clym sets out (355); Clym on the heath

Pathetic fallacy:MrsYeobright glanced round at the dark sky, at the hills, at the perishing bonfires…’ (90); the wind and Eustacia’s sigh (106).  The singing Pollard was ‘as if the night sang dirges with clenched teeth’ (137)..’How mournfully the wind blows round us now’ (139); ‘nest of vivid green…’ (264); Clym goes and the imagery is of amputation (268); The houses are stifling and the sun brands the heath – oppressive(337-8); The trees are battered as MrsYeobright is. (339-340); ‘The gloom of the night was funereal; all nature seemed clothed in crape.’ (419); ‘oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this season lay scattered about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal’ (420); ‘Never was harmony more perfect than between the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the world without’ (420); ‘The wind rasped and scraped at the corners of the house’ (424); ‘the storm … breathe into the chimney strange low utterances that seemed to be the prologue to some tragedy.’ (428)

Dramatic irony: Venn’s assumption ‘that Eustacia was somehow the cause of Wildeve’s carelessness’ (134); We know how Eustacia uses Venn to deliver the letter against his own interests and how Wildeve fails to appreciate the circumstances (211); Clym does not know his mother called (372) and bewails the fact she didn’t (375).

Dramatic impact: The sound of the serpent advanced onto the heath (188); Eustacia’s soliloquy (421); Thomasin and Captain Vye arrive at Clym’s – raising the tension (426 – 7); direct speech.

Tragedy and the Classical Unities – see section on Tragedy

Satire: ‘he produced a stone jar, which threw a warm halo over matters at once’ (97); of the sweethearts in the making of mumming costumes and other comments on the traditional character parts (179)

Social Realism of the 19c novel – a style that sought to replicate everyday life – i.e. recognisable pictures of real life.  One reviewer, at least, thought the novel was not a realistic portrayal of life: ‘We think that he has been injudicious in his invention of characters … if he aimed at making his story in any degree realistic’ (Saturday Review 1879).  Another view, expressed in New Quarterly 1879, was that ‘his pictures of life have a dramatic reality’ and his characters are ‘living creatures.’

Epistolary elements: Letters to Diggory, Eustacia, MrsYeobright.  Hardy wrote on this form of narration: ‘The advantages of the letter system of telling a story are that, hearing what one side has to say, you are led constantly to the imagination of what the other side must be feeling, and at last are anxious to know if the other side does really feel what you imagine.’

Structure and Narrative Technique in "Wurthering Heights" and "Return of the Native" - Thomas Hardy employs an `omniscient' narrator in his rural novel `Return of the Native', as he attempts to mimic classical tragedy by uniting the essential elements of time, place and action. The fact that the novel was originally intended to be of a five book structure, with monthly instalments, ending with a final, devastating climax, coupled with the numerous classical references to "Hades." "Hercules" and "Prometheus", shows even further Hardy's desire to create an immensely tragic novel, void of a desire to please societies middle-class novel reading public....   [tags: European Literature]

Hardy's writing style utilizes such film techniques as: long shot, close up, wide-angle, telephoto, zoom, etc. (Lodge, 80). These techniques allow Hardy to focus on characters, scenery, and situations to manipulate the reader's response to the subject matter. The fact that Hardy's narrative style parallels cinematic technique creates problems for directors who attempt to reproduce his fiction on film; however, many have still tried, some even while Hardy was alive.

Hardy fits Lodge's definition in the way he shifts focus in a matter of sentences from the omniscient observer to the personal perspective of a character. The narrator of Hardy's fiction often introduces an observer onto the scene. This observer personalizes the description of the scenery, such as in The Return of the Native when he introduces a furze cutter in the second chapter to describe the appearance of dusk. These observers often act as voyeurs, as camera lenses also do. The use of the character or observer as voyeur places even more emphasis on the visual appearance and reality of things.

Hardy also introduces characters in a cinematic style. Many times the reader meets a character off in the distance, walking down a road or off on the horizon. In The Return of the Native, Hardy introduces Eustacia and Captain Vye and Diggory Venn the reddleman as figures off in the distance. The reader learns Eustacia is the solitary figure on the horizon chapters later. Captain Vye is just an old man walking along the road who meets this reddleman. Captain Vye acts as the camera in this scene because the reader learns everything about Venn through Captain Vye's eyes. This narrative technique adds to the sense of suspense and creates interest in the characters for the reader.

Early film adaptations of Hardy's work occurred while Hardy was still alive. Hardy wanted to have his hand in the re-creations, but soon found this to be next to impossible. Sir Macmillan acted on Hardy's behalf in the film negotiations and helped Hardy secure his rights for the cinematic version of Tess with the Warwick Trading Company in 1912. Hardy held no objections to Tess being reproduced, "if the producers are clearly given to understand that it must be done seriously, and that the story must not be vulgarized or treated lightly, so that all possibility of a farcical view of the tragedy is prevented," as he wrote in a letter to Mr. Dureka on April 8, 1913 (Collected Letters). Hardy did see the American version of Tess, done by the Famous Players, in 1913. He was not very impressed with the representation, and he later expressed his concerns about Americans reproducing other works. In 1924 the Metro-Goldwyn film of Tess was released, and the Famous Players rights were terminated. MGM still holds the rights for Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd.

Early American versions of Hardy's works include MGM's Tess (1913, 1924), Henry Lachman's Under the Greenwood Tree (1929), and Sidney Morgan's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1921). More recently, John Schlesinger directed a version of Far from the Madding Crowd in 1967, with Julie Christie starring as Bathsheba. This film has been criticized for the 1960s feel and look of the characters and acting. In 1978 the BBC made a version of The Mayor of Casterbridge which was widely praised, but this is no longer publicly available. Roman Polanski's version of Tess was released in 1979, and generated much critical acclaim.

Directors have been interested in making films of Hardy's works for almost the entire twentieth century. Film studios recognize the inherent cinematic quality of Hardy's style, and the fact that Hardy's stories make good films. Interestingly, a version of Jude the Obscure will be released at the end of 1996. 
(Collected)