The author Thomas Hardy, in the book The Return of the Native uses several techniques in order to mould a specific initial impression of Eustacia Vye.
Moreover, Hardy uses the relationship of nature as a means to describe Eustacia. Several references indicate the connection between Eustacia and darkness. Whenever Eustacia is present in the novel, her surroundings are revealed to be gloomy, often referring to historical events, such as ‘a tract of country unaltered from that sinister condition which made Caesar anxious every year to get clear of its glooms before the autumnal equinox’ and describes her presence as
‘eclipses of the sun’ both terms relating to darkness. Her hand is described as that of Belshazzar, King of Babylon, who was haunted by a hand that brought him to his death. As a result, this point further links Eustacia to a gloomy death which are Hardy’s hints that Eustacia is doomed for destruction. Her physical features are also related to darkness as her eyes are described as ‘being full of nocturnal mysteries.’ Hardy describes Eustacia in extreme detail, yet she remains mysterious to the reader. He succeeds in creating an effect of ambiguity by deliberately holding back thus the more Hardy describes Eustacia the more she can be foreseen as a woman of mystery/
As well as having a relationship to darkness, Hardy also relates Eustacia to another symbol of nature which is fire. At several instances he surrounds her by fire in the phrase “throwing back the shawl to that the fire-light shone full upon her face and throat”. She is also described as having a “flame-like soul” and is further linked to fire as she is often seen hanging around the bonfires in the heath in the phrase “she ascended to her old position at the top where the red coals of the perishing fire greeted her like living eyes in the corpse of day’. Hardy uses fire in order to symbolize Eustacia’s excitement and power. Because fire can create lightness in the dark it has an immense force of power yet it has its disadvantage of being extremely dangerous as well. Moreover, linking Eustacia to fire is another hint of Eustacia’s fate of devastation.
The role of power is extremely important in this novel because Hardy associates Eustacia with power frequently. He uses classical references to describe Eustacia. Additionally, the classic relations are characters of power but have flaws to their power. Her image is describes as containing features of ‘Marie Antoinette and Mrs. Siddons’ both women being powerful yet outcasts. Marie Antoinette was the wife of Louse the 16th, a beautiful demanding woman who ended up being beheaded. Mrs. Siddons on the other hand, was a beautiful actress who was seen as an outsider by society due to the reason that as a woman in the 19th century you would be associated with a prostitute if you participated on stage. She is further related to the historical three goddesses who decided the fate of human in the phrase
‘had she handled the distaff, the spindle, and the shears at her own free will, few in the world would have noticed the change of government’. Moreover, this concept further establishes Eustacia as a woman of great power but also destruction. Hardy further relates Eustacia to “Heloises and Cleopatras” who were to intriguing women, again highlighting Eustacia’s status of power.
In addition to the theme of power, Hardy makes the character Eustacia carry two objects which are an hourglass and a telescope. These objects indicate that transience is being controlled by a higher power. The hourglass represents time and therefore establishes the fact that Eustacia is dependant on time stating a power above