Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 3 Chapters 1-3

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Book Third – ‘The Fascination’
Summary – Chapters One, Two and Three
This first chapter begins with Clym and how something has always been expected of him, be it good or bad and his fame spread from an early age (as a juvenile artist and scholar). Because of the neighborhood expectations, people soon begin to talk when he does not return to Paris straight after the holidays.
The men talk about him on a Sunday, as Fairway cuts hair, and Clym comes over to chat with them after guessing correctly that he has been their topic of conversation. Fairway explains that they were wondering why he is still here and Clym tells them that he used to find the ways in this area to be contemptible (for example, men oiling their boots instead of blacking them) but now sees this view and his job in Paris as vain, idle and effeminate. He now plans to set up a school as near to Egdon as possible and have a night school at his mother’s and needs to study to do this. When he leaves, Fairway doubts this will happen and another says Clym ‘had better mind his business’.
In Chapter Two, the narrator compares Clym to John the Baptist as he takes ‘ennoblement rather than repentance’ for his text. His mind is described as not being ‘well-proportioned’ and it is demonstrated in him throwing up his business to ‘benefit his fellow-creatures’. We are also told he loves the heath as much as Eustacia hates it.
When he gets home, he tells his mother that he has given up his business and plans to be a schoolmaster. He says he wants to do something worthy before he dies. His mother sees this as going backwards and had supposed he would push straight on as other men do.
Christian Cantle appears at this point to tell them what has happened in church. Susan Nonsuch (the mother of Johnny) pricked Eustacia in the arm with a long stocking needle. She has wanted to do this for weeks, to draw her blood, to put an end to the bewitching of her children. She pricked Eustacia that deep she fainted.
When Clym and his mother are alone again, he asks if she thinks he has ‘turned teacher’ too soon. She replies it is right there should be schoolmasters and missionaries, but it is also right that she tried to lift him out of this life and he should not come back again and ‘be as if I had not tried at all’.
Sam comes over later to borrow rope for Captain Vye as his bucket has dropped in the well and they need water. They talk about Eustacia and Clym asks him if she would like to teach children; Sam replies that he does not think so. Clym says he would like to talk to her about it and Sam says he should come over to help and will see her there. The chapter ends with Clym still unsure if she is the ‘melancholy mummer’ he encountered before.
After walking on the heath in Chapter Three, Clym tells his mother he is going to Mistover (to the Vye home) to help at the well and talk to Eustacia. She is gloomy when he leaves as she is sure they will see each other.
As Clym approaches Mistover, he sees the men are already trying to retrieve the bucket and offers to help them. When Fairway takes over again, Clym offers to send them water over from Blooms-End as the bottom has been knocked out of the bucket. Eustacia tells him they have some and shows him the pond near where the fire was. She throws a stone in it and we are told no Wildeve appears this time. She says this water is fine for her grandfather, but not for her. By this time, the others have gone and they try again to get water from the well. She injures her hands on the rope and says it is the second time she has been injured that day. He is sympathetic and she shows him the wound from the needle, and says she did not know she had such a magic reputation.
He asks her if she would like to help him as a teacher and she says she hates her fellow creatures. He says there is no use in hating people, and ‘you should hate what produced them’. She asks if he means nature and says she hates ‘her’ already.
It is expected that they would part at this, but he mentions how they have met before. As they talk, it is clear that he loves this area and she would love to be in Paris.
On his walk home, he feels his scheme has ‘somehow become glorified. A beautiful woman had been intertwined with it.’ The next day he reads and reads. He then goes for a walk towards Mistover and returns over an hour later. He and his mother talk and he says he has seen Eustacia.
As the weeks pass, he continues to study and walk in the direction of Mistover and Rainbarrow. In March, he and his mother talk about his growing attachment to Eustacia and she tells him he is mistaken about her. She also thinks he could be wrong about other things too. She explains that she thinks she is ‘lazy and dissatisfied’. He suggests he wants to marry her thinking she would be invaluable (as an educated woman) if he takes a school. He says he has now modified his views and would like to establish a good private school for farmers’ sons. Mrs Yeobright feels some betrayal and calls this a folly. She blames Eustacia and refers to her as a ‘hussy’. He says he will not hear it and she knows not to say anything else.
Analysis – Chapters One, Two and Three
The expectations placed on Clym are made apparent as his mother and neighbors assume that he will always be moving onwards (and probably upwards). His decision to return home and start up a school is regarded by his mother as a step backwards as she has helped him escape this rural life. Conversely, Clym is infused with a form of early socialist idealism where education will help those who are less privileged. This idealism also infuses his view of Eustacia as although she tells him she hates nature, and has no desire to help him teach, he continues to view her as a possible help-mate in his future career. He is, it would appear at this point, blinded by what she represents rather than by what she tells him.


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