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Character Comparison: Venn vs. Wildeve

Perhaps two of the most opposing characters of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the

Native, both in personality and actions, Diggory Venn and Damon Wildeve could in some

respects be cast as night and day. Most signifigant is the converse treatment of each man

towards Thomasin Yeobright. The stark differences between the reddleman Venn and Wildeve

most likely are the result of the divergent motives of the two.

As the lone seller of reddle on Egdon Heath, Diggory Venn is somewhat ostracized by

the inhabitants; he is dismissed by the girl he loves, Thomasin, and her aunt Mrs. Yeobright as

an inadequate, unprosperous match for a husband. Reluctant to take no for an answer, Venn

repeats his request to marry Thomasin several times. She, however, is betrothed to Damon

Wildeve; thus, a contest of manliness between he and Venn ensues. It is here that the two men

so greatly differ. Indeed, Venn despises Wildeve, less because he has “won” Thomasin than for

the fact that the reddleman recognizes Wildeve’s incentives are not those of true love for

Thomasin. As a result of Venn’s somewhat voyeuristic nature, he is quite aware of the covert

relationship Wildeve has been maintaining with Eustacia Vye. It is Diggory Venn’s pure, self-

less love for Thomasin that drives his attacks — verbal as well as physical — upon Damon

Wildeve. Venn’s own happiness depends upon that of Thomasin’s; his foremost goal is that she

be content — even if that be with another man than he. There is no point throughout the novel at which

Venn seeks to avenge Wildeve’s marrying of Thomasin. He simply strives to make sure Damon

does not wrong the girl by mistreating her or by continuing his relationship with Eustacia. Venn

would only seek revenge for the hurting of Thomasin, and will stop at nothing — literally — to

ensure her bliss. Rather than be bitter of her unacceptance towards him, Venn goes beyond all

means to watch over Thomasin, in a sense; he truly cares for her well being. One such

example is that of the night Thomasin asks Venn to help her keep Wildeve home at evening.

Venn takes this to heart; her words remain with him, and he resolves to do all he can; he even

goes so far as to shoot at the feet of Wildeve while he is calling on Eustacia. Though seemingly

quite a drastic measure, Venn does it without hesitation and solely out of love for Thomasin

whom he is determined will be happy. Because he knows Thomasin?s heart would be broken to

learn of the relationship between her husband and Eustacia Vye, he essentially withholds it from

her but does all he can to prevent her from ever knowing of it and having to suffer.

Damon Wildeve, on the other hand, feels nothing relatively close to what his nemesis

Venn feels for Thomasin. As owner of the Quiet Woman Inn, Wildeve may be said to have

earned somewhat of a shady reputation, which is actually quite legitimate. In his courting of

Thomasin, Wildeve is nonchalant and careless; especially notable in his thoughtlessness of

procuring a wedding license before he and Thomasin ran off to a nearby town to be married.

Wildeve was unconcerned, for the most part, of the damage to Thomasin’s reputation upon her

unmarried return to the heath. Furthermore, it was only once he received a cool, dismissive

letter from Eustacia signifying the end to their passionate affair and when Eustacia failed to meet

him atop the barrow late one night as she promised that Wildeve decides he and Thomasin must

immediately be married. Even at this point, it is not because of his great love or even respect of

Thomasin, but his haste to make Eustacia envious, regretful of her decisions, and see that she

was wrong. Unlike Venn, Wildeve merely exploits Thomasin for his own advancement in the

eyes of Eustacia, whom he desires. He is utterly self-absorbed and will stop at nothing to

obtain what he wants, whereas the reddleman oppositely does nothing for himself — he accepts

that he will never be with Thomasin and although she will never know of his many schemes to

assure her happiness, he risks very much, including the wrath of Damon Wildeve, and pursues them

all the same. Damon hopes only to evoke in Eustacia jealousy by marrying the poor, naive

Thomasin. Wildeve is also restless and dissatisfied with life; he is troubled even in his sleep.

On the contrary, Venn is at peace with himself and content just to know that all he does is for

Thomasin’s happiness. Wildeve is insincere and inconsiderate; in his treatment of Thomasin, but

it is also questionable as to his true feelings for Eustacia, which very well may be those of

infatuation. Damon’s goal in taking Thomasin as a wife, however, is undoubtedly to regain

Eustacia’s attention and affection.

In conclusion, Diggory Venn and Damon Wildeve are absolutely opposite characters;

personality traits differ greatly from one man to the other, including selfishness as opposed to

selflessness, the honorability and sincerity of both, and their morality. Most of all, the individual

motive and incentive of each, concerning Thomasin, result in the greatest difference between

Damon Wildeve and Diggory Venn: while Venn pursues not Thomasin, but her own true

happiness which he values over his own, Wildeve simply utilizes her as a pawn in his man-

ipulative, tricky involvement with Eustacia.

Hardy, Thomas. The Return of The Native.


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