The novel The Return of the Native written by Thomas Hardy takes place in Edgon Heath, a town in England. A riddle man (sells reddle-a red mineral used by farmers to mark their sheep) namely Diggory Venn is driving his van and crosses the heath.
Some folks are lightening bonfire on the surrounding hills. In his van Thomasin Yeobright (cousin of Clym- the protagonist) is sitting whose marriage with Wildeve (an in-keeper) could not be completed as Wildeve is in love with Eustacia and he thus does something wrong with the marriage certificate.
Being in grief she asks Diggory to take her home. Diggory is in love with Thomasin. Earlier he tried his best to make her love him but fails. Still, he remains loyal to her and helps her in her distress. They reach the home of Thomasin’s aunt Mrs. Yeobright (mother of Clym- the protagonist).
Eustacia – A Modern Girl
Eustacia is pretty but a witch-type girl having in mind to leave heath as she considers herself to be modern and the society of Edgon Heath doesn’t see to be good here. She lives along with her grandfather.
Earlier she and Wildeve were in a relationship, but her sole of purpose of loving him was that she considered him to be the better than any other in Edgon. However, their relationship ends up.
Meanwhile, Clym Yeobright, son of Mrs Yeobright (the protagonist) a successful diamond merchant returns back from Paris to Edgon and Eustacia considers him as an opportunity to take her out of Heath. Thus she goes to the party arranged by in disguise of a man.
However, Clym catches her and her prettiness attract him so much that he falls in love with him. Mrs, Yeobright doesn’t like her and tries to prevent her son from marrying her. Consequently, a quarrel starts between mother and son.
Once Mrs Yeobright giving money to her neighbour Christian asks him to divide it between Clym and Thomasin. However Christian gambling with that money and loses to Wildeve who again while gambling loses all the money to Diggory who gives it to Thomasin.
Christian tells Mrs Yeobright that he has lost money to Wildeve and the former thinks that Wildeve might have given that money to his beloved Eustacia. Consequently, she goes and quarrels with her.
Once while in Church Eustacia is attacked with a knife and badly wounded. Clym comes to see her regularly see her and in due time both get married and both move to a cottage which is quite far from the home of Mrs Yeobright.
Eustacia feels as if doors of opportunities have opened for her. Seeing Eustacia getting married, himself marries Thomasin in order to make Eustacia jealous. Eustacia and Clym live happily but their joy remains for a short period.
Clym had seen in Church someone accusing Eustacia of witchcraft and thus decides to make the condition of Edgon better and thus always remains busy with his work.
Eustacia & Wildeve
Eustacia starts seeing the dark side of marriage and to get rid of the stress she goes to a fair and meets Wildeve there. Both fall in love again and start love-making. A boy sees them and tells about it to Mrs Yeobright who goes to his son’s home.
Reaching near his house she finds Clym going inside and a little later another man also goes inside closing the door. Mrs Yeobright knocks at the door but nobody answers it.
She sees both Clym and later Eustacia in the home. Thinking that they have deliberately not opened door to her, she returns back. On the way, she is beaten by a snake and she dies.
The next day, Clym misses his mother and goes to see her. On the way he finds her dead body gone blue because of poison. He returns back and blames his wife for not opening the door. However, she puts blame on him saying that he was sleeping near the door and could open it.
Clym also comes to know by the child of a neighbour that she was sleeping with Wildeve that night. Both quarrel and Eustacia goes to her grandfather’s house.
Meanwhile, Wildeve wins a lottery of $10,000 and meets Eustacia offering her to take her to Paris. Both agree to run away in the dead of night in spite of knowing that a huge storm is about to come.
Thomasin somehow gets an insight into her husband’s (Wildeve) plans and sends Clym to stop. him. While searching for her husband she meets Diggory.
Eustacia & Wildeve Drown Away
While running in the dark Eustacia is tapped in the storm and drowns in the lake. Wildeve, seeing her drowning also meets the same fate.
Clym who was following them tries to rescue them but he too becomes a victim of the storm but is somehow rescued by Diggory. Clym feels guilty by thinking that his mother and wife died because of him.
In the end, Thomasin marries Diggory who giving up the profession of riddle-man now works as a dairy farmer. On the other hand, Clym becomes a preacher.