Paradise Lost is a primary intertext for The Return of the Native. Though the novel is often faulted for its obtrusive allusions to classics, ancient and modern, Hardy's deft use of Milton stabilizes a notoriously elusive narrative that lacks a clear protagonist and includes comfortable narrative “Aftercourses” that the author repudiated many years later. Specifically, Hardy fuses Miltonic oppositions into a monolithic, “modernist” landscape, from which not only God but also Satan has disappeared. To this Victorian wasteland, all natives who attempt to leave must return because there are no exits, except perhaps suicide. Yet the Miltonic text is so subtly rewritten, that it tends to mask too well the novel's subversive messages, especially in its transformation of the apparently selfish, lazy, and mischievous Eustacia Vye into one of the first modernist heroines.

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