Universial Themes in "The Return of the Native" and "Great Expectations"




Universial Themes in "The Return of the Native" and "Great Expectations"


Classic novels usually share in the aspect of universal themes which
touch people through out the ages. All types of audiences can relate to and
understand these underlying ideas. Victorian novels such as Thomas Hardy\'s The
Return of the Native and Charles Dickens\' Great Expectations are examples of
literary classics that have universal themes. Hardy\'s tale illustrates the role
of chance in his characters lives. Through the story we encounter events of pure
coincidence and their effects. Dickens, considered to be more of a reformer
(Literature Online), tries to portray a social theme in his novel. The basic
theme of Great Expectations is that good does not come from ones social standing
but rather comes from their inner value. These novels are considered classics
because of their timeless themes.
Thomas Hardy\'s The Return of the Native displays a theme of chance. Book
First, chapter 8 contains a perfect example. Eustacia persuades young Johnny
Nunsuch into helping her feed a fire. She dismisses him and begins to walk home.
Before reaching home, he is frightened by the light coming from the heath and
returns to discover Wildeve meeting with Eustacia. By pure chance, Venn
discovers the boy and quizzes him.

“Then I came down here, and I was afeard, and I went back; but I didn\'t like to
speak to her, because of the gentleman, and I came on here again” [Johnny
Nunsuch]

“ A gentleman--ah! What did she say to him, my man?” [Diggory Venn]

“Told him she supposed he had not married the other woman because he liked his
old sweetheart best; and things like that” [Johnny Nunsuch]

[Book First, chapter 8, pp. 82]

This chance exchange reveals that Wildeve is meeting with Eustacia. Venn uses
this to his advance by announcing himself to Mrs. Yeobright as a suitor for
Thomasin. This backfires because Mrs. Yeobright tries to use the second suitor
to force Wildeve to marry Thomasin. These events all occur from the chance
meeting between Venn and Johnny Nunsuch. Another example of chance and
coincidence can be seen in the famous gambling scene of Book Third, chapter VII.
This is perhaps one of the most critically examined parts of the book.

“ “Very well,” said Wildeve, rising. Searching about with the lantern, he found
a large flat stone, which he placed between himself and Christian, and sat down
again. The lantern was open to give more light, and it\'s rays directed upon the
stone. Christian put down a shilling, Wildeve another, and each threw. Christian
won. They played for two. Christian won again.” [Book Third, chapter 7, pp. 229]

This quote begins the drama of the scene. Mrs. Yeobright had entrusted Christian
to deliver a minor inheritance to Clym and Thomasin. He gets involved in a dice
game with Damon and unfortunately loses all hundred guineas. By chance, Diggory
Venn passes by and in the hope of protecting Thomasin, wins back all the money
from Wildeve. He mistakenly hands over all the winnings to Thomasin without
understanding that part of the money belongs to Clym. This chance occurrence led
to a tragic end. Although he was trying to do good, Venn succeeded to further
create conflict. Critics agree with this standpoint.

“The Return of the Native is concerned with the \'general malaise in the life of
humanity. Man is a pawn in life\'s lottery .... Man\'s life avails him nothing.
Men are just incidental in creation. Man may protest against his fate, but it
makes no difference, he only a plaything, he cannot master his destiny.” [Henry
Adler]

In these examples and critical quotes, we see the negative stance Hardy is
taking in the immoral theme of chance.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is also a classic novel due to its
universal theme of true good.

“Great Expectations is Charles Dickens\' "most compactly perfect book," mainly
because of the universal themes that are fully realized throughout the novel.
Furthermore, as an explanation of why Great Expectations is Dicken\'s finest work,
it becomes necessary study to study the thematic elements that are prevalent
within the storyline.” [George Bernard Shaw]

The theme is developed through a character Pirrip Philip, a poor orphaned boy
living with his sister and her husband, Joe. He is a father figure for the boy
and is a hard working blacksmith, loyal and good friend. While visiting his
family\'s grave site, he is approached by an escaped convict who demands that Pip
bring him food and a metal file. He does