Charles E. OrserJr.
Journal name not available for this finding
On the first page of The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy (1959) introduced an unusual, nonhuman character—Egdon Heath. The heath, a wide-open, barren plain, was not a typical actor. By all reckoning, the heath should have been a silent, natural spectator, a desolate and foreboding stage upon which the passions of Clym Yeobright and Eustacia Vye could be played out. But for Hardy, as for millions of readers since the novel first appeared in 1878, Egdon Heath was neither a mere backdrop nor a disinterested eavesdropper. Hardy infused the heath with an emotive and passionate character, and pressed its weighty presence down upon the story’s characters. Egdon Heath became “almost one of the leading characters in the novel” (Hutchings 1968:65).