In Egdon Heath, Thomas Hardy creates an otherworld consisting of the elements earth, wind, fire, and water, populated by a witch condemned by a pious womans spell, a Christian ruled by pagan beliefs, an assortment of other odd characters, and the native of the title whose return precipitates a series of tragic events. The Return of the Native is centered around Eustacia Vye, a beautiful outsider wrenched from the society she craves by orphanhood and exiled to live on Egdon Heath with her maternal grandfather. Spoiled, vain, fickle, and selfish, Eustacia is not a sympathetic heroine. Although she claims to belong to Damon Wildeve (body and soul in one uncensored version), she really belongs to whomever can grant her what she desires and, in her mind, deserves. While Wildeve is a step above the local rabble, Eustacia can never fully commit herself to him. Each time she considers it, she is held back by the thought that even he lacks something and that surely she can do better. Hes not great enough for me to give myself to-he does not suffice for my desire! . . . If he had been a Saul or a Bonaparte-ah! But to break my marriage vow for him-it is too poor a luxury! Susans male counterpart, the ironically named Christian, is no better. Simple-minded, naïve, and condemned to perpetual bachelorhood, Christian is pious not for love of God but for fear of life. He is ruled by superstition, and it requires little effort for Wildeve to convince him he is lucky and that he should gamble (as it turns out, with money that isnt his, adding theft to his sins). Like Egdon Heath itself (oozing lumps of fleshy fungi . . . like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal), the remainder of its inhabitants-the ones from whom Eustacia wishes to escape-are unflinchingly, unchangingly pagan, with Christians own reprobate father, Granfer Cantle, setting the example. They avoid inconveniences like church; they gleefully celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with fire and dance; they gossip without undue concern for good or bad. These are the folks from whom Mrs. Yeobright and the stoic pagan Diggory Venn (the reddleman) wish to save Thomasins reputation-as though it matters to them. These are also the people among whom Eustacia is a queen. When she says, How I have tried and tried to be a splendid woman and how destiny has been against me! the reader is hard pressed to find Eustacias efforts to better herself, other than trying to determine which man will best launch her into society. With his Paris connections, Clym is the obvious choice, yet it is Wildeve who turns out to have better prospects-and the will to take advantage of them. Queen among the heathens of the heath, Eustacia is blissfully unaware of the probability that, in the Parisian society she aspires to, she would be one among many and might find herself unable to compete with the elite courtesans, mistresses, and wives of Paris. I was capable of much, she claims. Hardy, however, never makes clear what this much might be exactly, as Eustacias intelligence, learning, and wit are incompletely and imperfectly portrayed, and one does not make a splash in society based on looks and pride alone. Eustacia hasnt tried and tried; and her youthful, ambitious impatience has led her to miss the clues that Clym is not going to try and try, either. Perhaps she, like Sue in Jude the Obscure, represents the dilemma of the intelligent woman in the 1800s, who can shape her own destiny only through attachment to the right man in a socially acceptable way. When that fails (Eustacia), or if an alternative means is attempted (Sue), tragedy is inevitable. The Return of the Native is a must read, incorporating a grim yet objective setting, memorable characters, and a tragic plot driven by human failings more so than the destiny at which Eustacia rails.