Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 4 Chapters 4-6

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Summary – Chapters Four, Five and Six
Venn considers Thomasin’s words when she asked about how to keep Wildeve at home. The next night, Venn sees him lean over Clym’s garden, sigh, and go back again and it is plain that his ‘intrigue’ is an ideal rather than real. Venn retreats first and as Wildeve walks away he trips over. When he recovers, he sees two tufts of heath have been tied together and takes the cord that was used. At home, he sees it is reddish in color and this is just what he expected. This troubles him, but his movements remain unaltered.
A night or two later, he looks into the Yeobrights’ home and sees Eustacia sitting alone. He secures a moth and puts it in the window. It goes to the candle flame and she starts up. This is a well-known signal of Wildeve’s in the past and she knows this, but just then Clym enters the room. He notices her high color and she says she is going outside to get the air. Before she does so, there is a knock at the door and unusually quickly she says she will answer it. He says she had better not at this time of night and goes instead. He comes back saying nobody was there and Eustacia says nothing.
As Wildeve had been putting the moth in the window, another man had appeared carrying a gun. He knocked on the door while Wildeve stood at the window and he then disappeared. .
Wildeve withdraws and then hears a report, and spent gunshots fall in the leaves. He thinks a boundary has now been crossed and goes to the constable’s cottage. He is not at home, though, and Wildeve waits then leaves when he does not appear.
This incident has the effect of diverting Wildeve’s movements rather than stopping him and considers calling in the day rather than at night. Meanwhile, Venn visits Mrs Yeobright and he tells her of Clym’s afflictions and touches on the sadness of Thomasin’s life. He says Mrs Yeobright should make herself at home in their houses to help them and hints at an earlier alliance between Wildeve and Eustacia.
At the same time, Clym tells Eustacia he has been thinking of making it up with his mother. He asks if she will meet his mother half way and welcome her here or accept her welcome. She has been distracted, but then agrees not to put anything in his way. She adds that if he had not returned to ‘his native place’ it would have been a blessing for him. He says he has altered the
destinies of three people and she thinks it is five.
In Chapter Five, on 31st August, Mrs Yeobright makes her way across the heath to her son’s house in the hot sun. She asks for directions and is told to follow the furze cutter up ahead. After a while she realizes it is her Clym.
She sits in the trees near his house and rests for a while. Before going to the house, she sees a man approach the gate and go in. She follows thinking another person’s presence will make this less awkward.
In Chapter Six, Wildeve has decided to meet Eustacia with her husband ‘in an ordinary manner’. This will look conventional, but means he will be able to see her. When he does this, his arrival coincides with Mrs Yeobright’s pause on the hill. He knocks and is let in by Eustacia and they talk while Clym sleeps on the hearthrug having been at work since 4.30 am.
She notes the contrast between the way Clym and Wildeve are dressed and tells Wildeve that Clym reminds her of the Apostle Paul and elaborates after Wildeve says he has a ‘grand character’: ‘[yes] but the worst of it is that though Paul was excellent as a man in the Bible he would hardly have done in real life.’ She says Clym is not grateful in winning her, but then asks if she is unreasonable in wanting ‘music, poetry, passion, war’, which gave the shape to her youthful dream. She had thought she saw the way to it in Clym.
Mrs Yeobright then knocks and at first Eustacia wants Wildeve to leave, and then changes her mind. She does not want to answer the door to her, though, and wants Clym to wake up to do this. When there is another knock, she hears Clym move and say ‘mother’ and Eustacia changes her mind again and leads Wildeve out to the back door and tells him this is his last visit.
She comes back in and sees Clym is still asleep. He had only been disturbed in his dreams and Eustacia looks out and can no longer see Mrs Yeobright. The latter knows Clym is home and thinks he has let his wife shut the door against her (as she has seen her face at the window). She walks away out of the view of the house and talks to Johnny Nonsuch who tags along with her.
Mrs Yeobright has to stop in the heat and he points out that she is breathing strangely. She asks him to bring her water from a nearby pool and gives him a china cup she had brought as a present for Clym and Eustacia. He brings the water, but it is too warm and she throws it away. She complains about the way her son has treated her and Johnny leaves her finally.
She continues to creep along slowly and the sun is now directly in her face. About three quarters of the way home, she sits and observes a bustle of a colony of ants and thinks of them doing this on the same spot for years. She sees a heron fly past and thinks it is in a free and happy place away from the earth to which she is pinioned.
Analysis – Chapters Four, Five and Six
These chapters give greater detail to the further confusion and difficulties that arise between Clym, his mother and wife. Coincidence is drawn upon and this highlights how the relationship between Clym and his mother appears to be thwarted by fate. The coincidence of Wildeve appearing just prior to her is also a useful plot device that adds to the later tragedy of the situation between mother and son.


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