Eustacia Vye is a character within Thomas Hardy’s book, “Return of the Native”, who seems to be set apart from all the other characters. By this, I mean that Hardy describes her as unique and different from all other characters. The chapter devoted to Eustacia starts with a perfect description of her to reflect the way I think Hardy wanted her to be portrayed to the reader. “Eustacia Vye was the raw material of divinity. ” This opening line immediately draws the reader into the illusion of mystery surrounding Eustacia’s character.
We realise that she is not like the other characters in the book, and this is shown by Hardy’s references to her as a “model goddess”. This gives the reader the impression she is set apart from this world, with a status above every other character else in the book. I think Hardy describes Eustacia in this way to create this higher standing and instantly make the reader feel there is something unusual about Eustacia. Hardy creates this beautiful imagery of her soft, pale skin and her black hair that was so dark that “a whole winter did not contain darkness enough to form its shadow” and it was like “nightfall extinguishing the western glow”.
This beautifully deep imagery once again draws the reader into creating this perfect, goddess like view of Eustacia. Hardy describes her temper showing through her hair as though it was static-like as she got irate, but “stroking” it down could calm it. This introduces a part of Eustacia’s actual persona. Hardy usually is describing her appearance and her general aura, rather than her actual personality, which I think he does to emphasize this enigmatic feeling about her character.
Hardy describes her eyes as “Pagan” and “full of nocturnal mysteries”, highlighting this deep and secretive character. Hardy also introduces an exotic factor about Eustacia by describing her “oppressive lids and lashes” to be fuller than it normally is with “English women”. This again puts Eustacia apart from the other characters in the book, as though she doesn’t quite fit in. The exotic factor of Eustacia also is prevalent throughout the rest of the chapter. Hardy describes her presence as bringing memories of “tropical midnights” and “eclipses of the sun”.
Both descriptions being almost supernatural to the people of Egdon Heath at that time, and definitely to the people in Hardy’s time. This exotic imagery makes you realise that Eustacia is meant to be in a place full of energy, people and life. She does not fit in on the heath, although I think secretly she has a passion for this quiet place that she spends so much time walking on. Even at night when one would consider it to be dangerous, Eustacia walks on Egdon Heath as though it has a quiet comfort for her, where she can imagine and dream of her life being more than it is.
Eustacia again is described by Hardy to be a fiery and passionate woman with a “flame-like” soul. This draws attention to her wild and hot-blooded nature within the novel. It is also as though she is on edge and her temper can flare up quite irrationally. Hardy describes Eustacia’s eyes and lips frequently, which creates an image of great beauty and a desirable object in the readers’ eyes. She is portrayed as a temptress with her lips “formed in geometric precision” and the corners of her mouth being “as clearly cut as the point of a spear”.
I think not only does this create a temptress imagery of Eustacia, but perhaps suggests that she can be a bit harsh in her speech. Also, it creates a definite perfection, without fault. The sharp form of her lips is only ruined by her “sudden fits of gloom”, suggesting that Eustacia is not content with life and her situation, as the chapter goes on to explain. To Eustacia, “Egdon was her Hades”. Her family and the reason for her being uprooted from Budmouth, which she loves, to Egdon, which she hates are revealed. She felt like one banished” as though Egdon was a place she was taken to as punishment.
Although it seems she hates the heath, I think she does fit it with its wild and unpredictable nature. However, Hardy describes her being on the heath to have “stifled the warmth within her”, implying that the heath has changed her and made her resign into herself, not displaying the best of her character. Hardy describes Eustacia’s main reason for unhappiness and loneliness in “isolation” and the prospect of a better life as being the want for love. To be loved to madness – such was her great desire. Love was to her the one cordial which could drive away the eating loneliness of her days. And she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more than for any particular lover. ”
This desire to the reader seems to be the reason for Eustacia’s tempestuous temperament. Hardy describes her as being an unfulfilled woman due to her lack of love, and it seems that Egdon Heath, to Eustacia is the thing holding her back from gaining this. She longs for another place because the heath cannot provide her with her dreams. Her loneliness deepened her desire”. What sets Eustacia apart from other characters in the book is also her educated mind and knowledge. I think Hardy describes her to be very intelligent, with “some forwardness of mind” and full of restless energy as to her, the “tedium” of the day of rest, namely Sunday, was frustrating for her, much like living on the heath is. The “subtle beauties of the heath were lost to Eustacia”; she only noticed the bad things after her analysing of it, which was her natural disposition to reflect on life.
Although Eustacia is noted to desire for Wildeve and she even goes against normal social conduct for the time and be rebellious with him, there was “only one circumstance which could dislodge him, and that was the advent of a greater man. ” Hardy describes her desire in this way because I think it sets up expectations for the reader for later on in the book, when Eustacia’s desires for Wildeve are forgotten when she has her sights set on Clym Yeobright. Eustacia seems to expect a lot from life, much more than the other characters in the book.
She envisions herself as being in a different place, living a different lifestyle because she is above the other characters in the book. Hardy puts her on a pedestal with this image of perfection. However, this sets up expectations to the reader that this perfection may be ruined or is doomed. Hardy generally describes Eustacia’s overall nature, moods and appearance. This differs from descriptions of other characters in the book, which introduce more about the personality of the character. This perhaps reflects the ideas of women at the time it was written, or perhaps the view Hardy wants of Eustacia to be seen as by the reader.
He shows her to be a desired object, angelic, but weak also, with feeble elements particularly in her moods and emotions. I think Eustacia would fit-in in a place that is full of life, conversation and vigour. She desires a place where is romance and passion are parts of her life. Hardy makes her seem to be fragile, but with a fiery persona and a high status, above everyone else in and around the Heath. She is immediately seen to be different and almost rebellious to the reader because of Hardy’s wild and distinctive descriptions of her.