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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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