POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

29 September 2013

The Return of the Native #7 (Book Third, The Fascination, chaps. 5-8)

Dear Serial Readers,

I returned to the very opening of this serial, where there is a long unwinding of the scene of Egdon Heath even before characters and dialogue appear--calm, poetic description.  In this installment, in the thick of storylines, the balance shifts--dialogue and building suspense between the triangulated desires of mother, son, and his lover.  The conflict between Mrs. Y and her son over what he will do with his life, and his choice of wife, is sharp and paired with Eustacia's demands on him--and the rush to marry.  Interspersed are the scenes of landscape, Egdon almost the silent character, the presence that is something like a witness of human dramas.  And I love how Hardy makes this environment out of deep evolutionary time--"The scene seemed to belong to the ancient world of the carboniferous period."

A corollary to this uniform, abiding presence of the landscape with its deep past is one character--the Reddleman, who seems Thomasin's guardian angel despite her declining his proposal (and now she's married to Wildeve).  The movement of those 100 guineas from Mrs. Y to Christian (who is instructed to give half to Clym and half to Thomasin) to Wildeve to Venn who then gives them all to Thomasin--the "red automaton" is an interesting fixture whose home is constant movement through the landscape.   At the close of "The Fascination" are two young married couples, but neither seems to have a rosy future, although Thomasin has those guineas. 

Serially yours, Susan