Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Eustacia Vye

"Queen of night," Eustacia, a native of the fashionable seaside resort of Budmouth, is ever an outsider on Egdon Heath. Her grandfather's house is isolated physically, and she keeps herself apart from the heath dwellers by her walks alone and her frequent nightly excursions to the summit of Rainbarrow.

She has a kind of contempt for the natives, as shown, for example, in her condescension to Charley in allowing him to hold her hand in payment for the part she wants to play in the Christmas mumming. They, in turn, look upon her as unfriendly and too proud; Mrs. Yeobright tells Clym she is idle and probably wanton. Susan Nunsuch even believes her to be a witch. Unlike Clym, whom the heath folk can at least fathom in part, Eustacia is beyond their comprehension. Her view of life is as foreign to the heath as her person. She is a hedonist for whom love as an end in itself is the greatest pleasure: "To be loved to madness — such was her great desire."

Her whole personality has a sleepy, dreamy cast to it. Though she is beautiful in an exotic way, it is clear that she is not an easy person to live with or be around. Hardy says of her, "She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make not quite a model woman." She is out-of-place and she doesn't quite fit into her surroundings. Themes of survival of the fittest come into play here, as Eustacia is trapped in an unsuitable spot and must either adapt or perish. Eustacia's story is one of lost potential, the interplay of fate and free will, and the consequences of decisions driven by dreams. None of those ideas would have come across if Eustacia was just a one-dimensional villain.

Eustacia is at the center of multiple triangular relationships in this novel: the love triangle between her, Damon, and Clym; the other love triangle between her, Thomasin, and Damon; and the jealousy-driven triangle between her, Clym, and Mrs. Yeobright. Eustacia's relationship with the wider community isn't much better than her personal relationships. She isolates herself and behaves arrogantly to those around her. As a result, the people of Egdon gossip about her, think she's an eccentric, and even accuse her of witchcraft. In the end, they seem to like her a lot better when she's dead-
                                       "All the known incidents of [Damon and Eustacia's] love were enlarged, distorted, touched up, and modified, till the original reality bore but a slight resemblance to the counterfeit presentation by surrounding tongues.”

Vocal in her condemnation of Destiny, Eustacia is an active demonstration of Hardy's theme in the novel. Yet, there is something unattractive about her readiness to shift the blame for everything that happens to her. It is difficult to accept whatever rationalization she makes for doing away with herself. It seems somehow unnecessary for a young woman of twenty to throw herself in a stream because she cannot find the ideal mate. In the retelling of Eustacia's life story, everything boils down to tragic love. Love and love stories are a very important part of Eustacia's life. In fact, the object of love often seems to be more of an afterthought to Eustacia than the idea of love. As indicated by Hardy's remark - “...she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more than for any particular lover.”

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