Try to characterize the nature of the love relationships that fill this novel. Are there any true love affairs in the novel? Does the novel even believe in the possibility of these affairs' success?
Based on the evidence provided in The Return of the Native, do you think Thomas Hardy has a negative or positive view of human nature? Of the future of civilization?
In what ways does Egdon Heath function as an important force--perhaps even another character--within The Return of the Native? Is it a sinister force?
Who are the heroes in this novel? Who are the villains? Are there any truly sympathetic characters in the novel? Why or why not?
What role do superstition, pagan culture and fantasy play in this novel? In what ways is the novel at times more naturalistic?
What is the relationship of the narrator to his characters? (What type of narrator is he? Is he an omniscient narrator? Does he make moral or aesthetic judgments?)
In some sense, The Return of the Native can be read a commentary on the conflict between modern ideas and attitudes--represented by the returning native, Clym Yeobright--and the more primitive and pagan attitudes of the heath-dwellers. What do you think is the novel's attitude towards modernity?
Is Clym Yeobright portrayed as an admirable character? Does he get what he deserves?
What is Hardy's attitude towards the residents of the heath? Does he condescend to them? Does he valorize them?
At the end of The Return of the Native, Hardy writes in a footnote that the marriage of Thomasin and Diggory Venn was not the originally planned ending to the novel. He asks the reader to choose the more "consistent" end for him- or herself. Which do you think is the more consistent, credible and/or pleasing end to the novel?