Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 1, Chapters 3-4

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Summary – Chapters Three and Four
These persons near the barrow are from the neighboring hamlets. Each is ladened with furze-faggots and they carry these into the barrow. The loads are laid together and a pyramid is made of furze that is 30 feet in circumference. As many as 30 bonfires can be counted in the district and this one at Rainbarrow is then lit.
Those present are described as diving into ‘past ages’ and we are told how ‘festival fires to Thor and Woden had followed on the same ground and duly had their day’. We are told it is pretty well known that ‘such blazes’ are the ‘lineal descendants’ from the Druids and Saxons than ‘the invention of popular feeling about Gunpowder Plot’. Moreover, lighting a fire is described as an instinctive and resistant act to the beginning of winter.
An old man begins to jig ‘a private minuet’ and a middle-aged man, Timothy Fairways, asks him (Grandfer Cantle) if he wishes he were young again as he has to stop for want of breath. Fairway then asks about the newly-married couple at the Quiet Woman inn. Humphrey explains about their marriage and how the woman’s aunt, Mis’ess Yeobright had stopped the banns on another occasion. Fairway tells them how he happened to be in church then, and does not blame Thomasin Yeobright and Wildeve marrying quietly this time.
Wildeve is described as being brought up to do better than run the Quiet Woman. He was an engineer, but threw his chance away and took on the public house.
The conversation moves on and Humphrey asks if they have ever known a man that no woman would marry. Christian Cantle (Grandfer’s youngest son) joins them and says that is he.
Fairway then tells of a ghost he has seen and goes on to propose that they sing a song to the newly weds at the door of the inn. By now their fire and many others are burning low, but they notice one is still strong in the distance and Fairway sees someone walk round it. He then pulls Susan Nonsuch into a dance with him and some of the others join in.
They stop when they hear somebody shouting and make the fire stronger to see who it is. It is revealed that it is the reddleman and he asks if there is a track here across to Mrs Yeobright’s house. They tell him the way and he departs. Only a few minutes later Mrs Yeobright appears and she is described as one who is above those gathered. We are told that although her husband had been a small farmer, her father had been a curate. Fairway tells her of the reddleman, but she presumes he just wants to sell her something. She is going to her niece at the inn and came this way to see what was happening. She leaves after asking Olly to walk with her.
In Chapter Four, the two women walk across the heath and Olly turns off for home. Mrs Yeobright continues and reaches Wildeve’s patch which has been reclaimed from the heath and is now owned by Wildeve. As she is about to enter the inn she sees the reddleman and introduces herself. She recognizes him as young Diggory Venn, the son of a dairyman.  He explains her niece is in his van and tells how this morning he heard someone trotting behind him and saw it was her. She said she was in trouble and asked for help; in the van, she fell in a faint and has since cried a great deal.
Mrs Yeobright goes inside and Thomasin wakes up. The younger one insists then on walking home, even though Venn offers to take her, and Mrs Yeobright asks why he changed from his father’s ‘nice business’ to this. He answers, ‘well, I did’ and looks at Thomasin who blushes a little. As soon as he leaves, Mrs Yeobright asks sternly about this ‘disgraceful performance’
Analysis – Chapters Three and Four
In Chapter Three, the gathering of local rustics is described as they build a bonfire ostensibly to celebrate November 5th. This is, though, a tradition that predates the Gunpowder Plot and Hardy is careful to show that this is one that dates back to pre-Christian England and is not the anti-revolutionary celebration it is now deemed to be. The lighting of fire is instead shown to be a custom that is tied to warding off the forthcoming dark and has only more recently been hijacked as a pro-establishment occurrence.


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