Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 4 Chapters 1-3

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Book Fourth – ‘The Closed Door’
Summary – Chapters One, Two and Three
It is July and Clym and Eustacia live in a monotony that is delightful to them. After three or four weeks he resumes his studies, though, and we are told that these books represent an obstacle to Eustacia in her desire to go to Paris.
The narrative shifts to Thomasin and how she wrote and thanked her aunt for the money, but as the amount was never specified she still does not know that half is for Clym. She was charged not to tell Wildeve, and Wildeve and Christian never speak of what they did.
After a week or so, Mrs Yeobright wonders why she has not heard from Clym and wonders if it is because of resentment. She finds out Eustacia is visiting her grandfather and decides to walk over to ask about it. When Christian learns of this, he has to tell her the truth about how Wildeve won the money and presumes he gave Clym’s share to Eustacia. She goes to Eustacia and asks if she has received a gift of money from Thomasin’s husband. Eustacia fires up and denies it. They argue and Eustacia says she would have thought twice about marrying if she had known she would be living on the heath a month later. Mrs Yeobright says this does not sound truthful and they continue to argue until Mrs Yeobright leaves after saying if she shows half this temper to Clym, she will see he is as hard as steel.
In Chapter Two, Eustacia returns home early and Clym can see she is disturbed. He asks what the matter is and she tells him she has seen his mother and will never see her again. A weight like a stone falls on him. She talks about it brokenly and then asks him to take her to Paris and continue with his former occupation. With surprise he says he has given up this idea. She asks if as his wife she does not share in his doom and have a voice, and this makes him resolved to study all the more to bring his plan about more quickly.
The mystery of the guineas is explained the next day when Thomasin pays a visit and gives Clym his share of the money.
Clym tries to make progress with his scholastic plans and develops eye strain. He is transformed into an invalid and is told he has to give up pursuing his work for a long time to come. Eustacia takes to weeping in despair and Paris seems less likely still.
While on a walk, Clym talks to Humphrey about his pay as a furze cutter and when he comes home he tells Eustacia he plans to do this, and in a few months he may be able to go on with his reading. She questions this and says her grandfather will help them and sheds a bitter tear that he does not see the problem for her.
Eustacia sees him at work one day and is at first moved to see him toil so hard. However, when she hears him sing and not feel denigrated, she is wounded. She weeps in despair that he does not care about being a social failure and the narrator describes her as a ‘proud fair woman’. She comes forward to him and says vehemently she would rather starve than do this. She also criticizes him for singing and says she will live at her grandfather’s.
The couple talk and she says if she were a man in his position she would rather curse than sing. He tells her he is also capable of rebelling and sings to pass the time. He adds that her words no longer have the same flavor and she says she will have to go home as it will end bitterly.
A few days later in Chapter Three they sit together at dinner and she is described as lately becoming apathetic. He tries to brighten her and then says how when she first met him he was wrapped in a golden halo. She sobs and tells him she is going to a village picnic at East Egdon. He asks if she will be dancing and she asks why not as he can sing. He admits he is perhaps jealous and she asks him not to take away all her spirit. He agrees he should not drag her down and says he will stick to his doom with his hook and gloves (for furze cutting). When he leaves, she says to herself that theirs are two wasted lives.
She goes to the festivity alone, but only watches the dancing. Later, more strangers come and she has less chance of being recognized. A form of paganism is revived in the dancing and she envies those joining in. As she watches, she hears her name being called. It is Wildeve and he asks her in a whisper if she still likes dancing as much as she used to and she says she thinks she does. He asks her to dance with him and says she could put her veil down. She does so and they join the others.
Wildeve’s feelings are described as easy to guess as ‘obstacles were a ripening sun to his love’. When they rest, he says how he expected her and Clym to go to Paris after they married and sees she is almost weeping. He offers to walk her part of the way home and as they approach Throope Corner, they see two figures coming towards them: it is Clym and Venn and Wildeve describes Venn as his ‘greatest enemy’. Wildeve leaves her before they reach them and Venn appears to have seen a man leave her side, whereas Clym’s vision is not good enough to notice, and walks on his way when she meets them.
Venn crosses the heath quickly and goes to the inn knowing his way was the fastest. When he gets there, he asks if Wildeve is present and Thomasin tells him he is not home yet. She says he has been to buy a horse and Venn asks if he was wearing a ‘light wideawake’. She confirms this and he tells her drily that he has seen him at Throope Corner ‘leading one home’. He describes it (her) as a beauty with a white face and black mane. He then asks her if he is often away and she agrees and asks with intentional gaiety how she can keep him at home.
After Venn leaves, Wildeve returns and Thomasin enquires about the horse Venn described. Wildeve says he is mistaken and realizes Venn’s ‘countermoves had begun again’.
Analysis – Chapters One, Two and Three
The differences between Clym and Eustacia are emphasized all the more in these chapters as firstly the mix up in the gift of money helps to cause friction between Mrs Yeobright and Eustacia. This is further exacerbated by Clym’s desire to pursue his studies while Eustacia continues to hanker after living in Paris. When Clym suffers eye strain to the point that his vision is affected and takes on work as a furze cutter, Eustacia resents his increasing lack of care about his social standing. These two opposing people are contrasted against each other as one dreams of ideals whilst the other is concerned with culture and class. It is telling that Clym’s eye strain affects his vision and may be interpreted as a literal representation of his blindness to the differences between him and his wife.
At the same time, the similarities between Eustacia and Wildeve are highlighted as they dance together at the festivity. Their passionate natures come to the fore and when Wildeve is described as enjoying the obstacles that are intrinsic to romantic love, he resembles Eustacia in her earlier heightened passion for Clym before she married him.


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