Book Sixth – ‘Aftercourses’
Summary – Chapters One, Two, Three and Four
Thomasin grieves, but her chief interest lies in her daughter. The spring calms her and the summer soothes her and in the autumn she is comforted by the growth in her child. When her husband’s affairs are sorted out, she is left with £10,000.
She moves to Blooms-End and Clym is glad to have her as a tenant, and he lives in two rooms of the house. He lives on the £120 a year left by his mother and walks on the heath frequently. He imagines the ancient inhabitants that also trod there.
The following summer Venn calls on Thomasin and he is dressed in ordinary clothes (and has no red on him at all). He has earned enough as a reddleman to take on 50 dairy cows and is invited to stay for tea. He says Mr Yeobright is invited to his land whenever he likes, but cannot stay today. He has come to asks if it is alright to erect the maypole on the green outside their palings, and it is welcomed.
The next day, Thomasin dresses more gaily than she has for the last 18 months since Wildeve’s death. Clym compliments her and she blushes and he becomes a little distressed that she is dressing up for him. He leaves her for four hours and comes back at dusk. When he returns, Thomasin feels it is acceptable to ask Venn to come in. However, he says he is still there as he wants to find a lady’s glove, and will not come in tonight.
In Chapter Two, Clym notices over several days that Thomasin is quieter than usual. She is candid and says she cannot work out who Diggory Venn is so much in love with. For some time she is unsure about this until her maid tells her she lost one of her mistress’s gloves when she borrowed them on May Day. Venn had given her the money to replace them, but she has not had the chance to do so yet.
Thomasin is on the heath the next day with her daughter and Venn approaches on horseback. She asks him to give her her glove and he takes it from his breast pocket. As they talk, their feelings for each other become clear.
In the third chapter, Clym resolves to ask Thomasin to marry him and feels this as an economist rather than a lover. He also knows his mother had wanted this years ago. He considers it a duty and starts to speak to Thomasin about their futures, but she asks to speak first.
She tells him she is thinking of marrying Venn. Clym goes quiet and eventually implies he is not gentleman enough. He tries to maintain a neutral tone and reminds her of his mother’s opinion and says they should respect it. She agrees to this, and turns away and hides a tear. Clym is relieved that marriage in relation to him is shelved and then sees her moping about over the next successive days.
Humphrey later says to Clym that he and Thomasin should marry and Clym sees he only has two ideas: to be a night school teacher and a preacher. The chapter ends with Thomasin telling Clym of her forthcoming marriage.
The final chapter begins in Fairway’s home on the morning of the wedding and he is finishing off a bed for the newly weds as his neighbors watch and help. A fly is heard passing and this marks the return of the married couple.
Clym does not attend the party (but accepts their relationship), and Thomasin is understanding about his reasons. He later goes for a walk and encounters Charley. Clym knows he used to have a romantic attachment for Eustacia as she told him and when Charley asks if he could have something of hers, Clym agrees to it. They go to Blooms-End and he gives Charley a lock of her hair.
On their way out, Clym asks Charley to describe what is happening through the window and asks if they care about him (Clym) not being there. Later, the Venns leave for Stickleford and Clym is alone in the house again. He thinks of his mother and of how he should have listened to her more.
On the Sunday after the wedding, a figure can be seen on Rainbarrow where Eustacia used to stand. This figure is not alone, though, as a number of heath men and women listen to him preach. It is Clym and he has found his vocation. He goes on to speak as an itinerant preacher all over the area. Some criticized, but he is kindly received everywhere, ‘for the story of his life had become generally known’.
Analysis – Chapters One, Two, Three and Four
The novel ends with Clym living out his vocation as he turns to itinerant preaching. He takes the place of Eustacia on Rainbarrow, but he is not alone as she was the last time she was there and instead he is listened to by the heath men and women. His replacement of her is poignant, as he fills her space, but it is also telling that he is in the place that he loves and is speaking (and not just preaching) in a place that pre-dates Christianity. For Eustacia, the heath represented all she hated and for Clym to be there at the end signifies a form of optimism in the unbounded nature that the heath represents.