I've also been spending a bit of time re-reading portions of The Well-Educated Mind and thinking about The Return of the Native. I haven't reached a conclusion about Hardy's reason for writing this novel - what is his message? No matter the choices you make, there is an overreaching power that really controls all fate and destiny? We really have no free will?
It seems that Hardy creates extra, though silent, characters - the heath, the weather, natural forces (fire and water) that have a great deal of control over the lives of those dwelling there. His description of the heath brings it to life like another person in the novel. While beautiful, it can be brutal. Is Hardy commenting on our lack of control - that nature is more powerful?
A few examples:
- Wildeve's signal to Eustacia
- the cause of Eustacia and Wildeve's death
- the reason for Clym's first meeting with Eustacia (when he goes to help retrieve the bucket from their well)
- the heat overcomes Mrs. Yeobright and puts her "in the wrong place at the wrong time"
- Eustacia walks through the rain before her death/suicide