Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 1, Chapters 7-9

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Summary – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
Eustacia is compared to a model goddess in her passions and instincts. She is not suited to Egdon Heath and was raised in Budmouth. She is now an orphan and has been in the care of her grandfather. She is characterized by her desire for love and passion and it is explained that loneliness deepens her desire.
She is also rebellious and the ‘subtle beauties’ of the heath are lost to her. She is at a stage where nothing is worthwhile and fills up her time ‘by idealizing Wildeve for want of a better object’. It is only ‘the advent of a greater man’ that will dislodge him. For the rest of the time, she takes slow walks and carries her grandfather’s telescope and her grandmother’s hour glass. With the latter she takes ‘a peculiar pleasure’ in watching time slip away.
She seldom schemes but when she does she uses the strategy of a general rather than ‘the small arts called womanish’.
In Chapter Eight, Johnny Nonsuch goes home clutching the money given to him by Eustacia. There is little danger for a child travelling alone on the heath but he stops when he hears a smacking noise and sees a light and a cloud of dust. He decides to return to Miss Vye to ask her servant to accompany him. He turns back and sees the fire is still burning and she is now talking to a man. He listens to what they say, to see if it is prudent to interrupt, and after some minutes he withdraws perplexed. He sets off home again to face the lesser of two evils and stops when he hears a noise in the sandpit.
When he is closer, he sees it is two horses that have been broken in and then notices a van. He is alarmed to see a man dressed in red (which is Venn) and trips and rolls down towards him. He tells the man his name and asks him to help find his sixpence.
They talk and Johnny explains how he got the money by keeping the fire burning until the frog jumped in the pond and Venn tells him they do not do this at this time of year. Johnny then tells how he returned later and heard her talk to a man. After being asked, he reveals she said to the man that she supposed he had not married the other ‘because he liked the old sweetheart best’. Johnny thinks he liked her best and the man said he will see her again. Venn slaps his hand against the van and cries, ‘that’s the secret o’t!’
Chapter Nine begins with an explanation of how reddlemen are rarely seen since the advent of the railway and the child’s first sight of one used to be ‘an epoch in his life’. Mothers used to threaten their children with them as a bogeyman figure. He was an isolated figure because of the nature of his work and this is how he also tended to be seen.
Venn is darning at his van and lays it down to open a letter that has been read many times before. It is two years old and is from Thomasin. In it she says she cannot marry him or let him call her his sweetheart. She also asks that he not ‘becall’ her for laughing when he spoke to her. She adds that even if she did want him to court her, her aunt would not as she would want her to look a little higher ‘than a small dairy-farmer’.
They did not meet again until today and in the meantime he moved to this new position, and it is an even greater move away from her. He still loves her generously, though, and his first active step in watching over her comes the next evening at seven. He has come to see Eustacia as a ‘conspirator’ against Thomasin’s happiness and he stands near Rainbarrow to see if she and Wildeve meet. He does this for four nights with no success, but on the fifth he sees a man and woman in this spot and camouflages himself to get close enough to listen.
Wildeve says how she used to treat him cruelly enough until he found someone fairer. She asks if he thinks she is fairer and if he still loves her and he replies mischievously that he does and does not. They both agree that they hate the heath and Wildeve asks why they stay there. He then asks her to come to America. She asks him to give her time and they turn and walk away and Venn hears no more. He walks back to his van and his spirit is ‘perturbed to aching’ for Thomasin’s sake and determines to see ‘that Eustacia Vye’.
Analysis – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
Chapter Seven is a useful reference point for understanding the characterization of Eustacia more fully. She is depicted as being in love with love and this is emphasized by her loneliness and isolated position. Her dislike of the surrounding heath gives weight to her sense of aloneness and it is telling that Wildeve shares in this sentiment.
Chapter Nine is significant for the further explanations that are given to Venn’s actions when assisting Thomasin earlier. He is still in love with her, despite the fact that she has turned him down as a prospective sweetheart, and his generosity is demonstrated in his decision to protect her from heartache.


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