Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Book 5 Chapters 7-9

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Summary – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
On the 6th November, Eustacia lights a fire at 8 pm as a signal for Wildeve and sees a similar light in the vicinity of his residence a minute or two later. She thinks of this as proof that he has received her ‘message’ and goes to her room to prepare for the night ahead.
At 10 pm, Fairway brings a letter from Clym to Eustacia having been delayed. Her grandfather looks through her keyhole and sees the room is dark and decides not to disturb her. After 11 pm, he notices a light from her room and hears her move about and cry. He shouts to her to let her know about the letter, but she gives no response. He becomes alarmed when he sees she has not slept in her bed. He then realizes she has left the house. He knows he will not be able to find her on the heath and is vexed to see her letter is left untouched in the parlor.
The narrative shifts to Eustacia and how she leaves the house at 11.30 pm and we are told that the even the receipt of Clym’s letter would not have stopped her now. She reaches Rainbarrow and stands there to think. Because of her impractical nature, it dawns on her only now that she does not have enough money for a long journey and knows she cannot ask Wildeve for it. It is raining and this ‘outer scene’ is repeated on her face. She talks to herself and says it is ‘too poor a luxury’ to break her marriage vow for him. She also says destiny is against her.
The narrative shifts once more to Susan Nonsuch who had seen Eustacia earlier (and this was just five minutes after her sick boy said he felt so bad). Susan stays up that night to make a wax effigy of Eustacia. She then inserts as many as 50 pins into it. After this, she holds it with tongs over the fire until it wastes away. At the same time, she repeats the Lord’s Prayer backwards three times.
In Chapter Eight, and on the same night, Clym waits for a response from Eustacia, but finally goes to bed. He is woken by Thomasin knocking and she is wet and frightened. She explains that she thinks Wildeve and Eustacia are going to run off together. She has seen him preparing to leave and saw him getting bank notes from his chest, and she is also sure that he met Eustacia the night before.
Thomasin wants Clym to go to Wildeve and stop him as she has no influence. He agrees and as she is wet and has brought the baby with her he re-lights the fire. As he changes, Captain Vye comes to the door and he wants to know if Eustacia is there. Clym says he thinks she is going to elope with Wildeve and is going now to find out.
The Captain says he hopes it is no worse than this, and explains about Charley finding Eustacia looking at the pistols. The Captain blames Clym and Clym ignores this, and asks if he is coming with him. The older man says he will go home as he cannot walk to the inn on a night like this, so Clym goes alone.
After they leave, Thomasin frets about what will happen and wraps the baby up again and goes out. Despite the pouring rain, she is glad to have set off and unlike Eustacia there are no demons in the air for her. However, she loses the path and continues on the contours of the heath until she comes across Venn’s van. He mistakes her for someone else at first and on recognizing her he leads into the shelter. He explains that only five minutes ago he heard a woman’s clothes brush against his van and heard her crying, but when he went out he could see nothing. She presumes it was Eustacia and says they must hurry to the inn. He carries the baby and leads the way.
The narrative switches to Wildeve in Chapter Nine and details his preparations to leave. He has persuaded himself it is possible to settle half his property on his wife and show chivalrous devotion to ‘another and greater woman’.
As he sits in the trap waiting for Eustacia, he looks at the time and is surprised to see it is nearly a quarter past 12. He hears a footstep and calls ‘Eustacia?’, and Clym appears. At first Clym does not see him as he is shielded by the lamp but both hear the noise of a body falling in the weir. Clym says ‘good God! Can it be she?’ and Wildeve asks why it would be. Clym recognizes his voice and calls him a traitor, and says Eustacia would have put an end to her own life last week if she had been able.
On Clym’s instructions, they take a lamp each to the weir. They see a body and Wildeve jumps in immediately with his overcoat still on. Clym places the lamp to shed the light in the right area and springs in where there is no wall. Venn and Thomasin approach and he tells her to go and fetch the stable lad.
Venn goes into the water and sees a woman’s bonnet and a man floating. He tries to drag him out, but this is made difficult as the legs of this man are being embraced by another. More men come to their assistance and the first one they pull out is Clym; the second one, who was fully submerged, is Wildeve. They are both brought out and Venn vanishes into the water again and pulls Eustacia up. The three are put in a car and taken to the inn. They are then placed near the fire and there is no movement until Clym reacts to a bottle of hartshorn placed under his nostrils. The other two do not react but they are all put to bed.
Venn leaves and then returns again and is told Mr Yeobright is better but Mr Wildeve and Mrs Yeobright are dead. He remembers the last time he stood before the fire (when the raffle was on) and thinks he is the only one whose position has not materially changed.
The nurse then enters the room and dries Wildeve’s banknotes that were on him when he drowned. Venn stays on and at 4 am Charley comes asking for news of Eustacia and has been sent by the Captain. Venn tells him what has happened and Charley asks to see her. Clym appears and is compared to Lazarus, and says he shall. He then takes them both to see Wildeve and Eustacia.
When they leave, Clym reveals his state of mind and says this is the second woman he has killed this year. He says he was a great cause of his mother’s death and the chief cause of Eustacia’s. He then says he should have drowned himself. He calls himself hopeless and says his only great regret is that no man or law can punish him for what he has done.
Analysis – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
In these final chapters of Book Five, the deaths of Wildeve and Eustacia are the significant events. It is of note that Eustacia did not intend to elope with Wildeve, as Thomasin and Wildeve thought possible, and was also unwilling to take money from him. Her death may be interpreted as a punishment for her independent thinking, rather than for the suggestion that she is or would be adulterous.
Her hopeless position becomes clear as she stands on Rainbarrow and the rain reflects the tears she sheds as she realizes she cannot afford to leave for Paris. This use of pathetic fallacy has been seen throughout the novel, but here it is used to its greatest effect.


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