It also suggests that something as destructive as a storm can be tamed into loving. Through this, Hardy also suggests that the storm does not affect the heath or its inhabitants but it affects outsiders on the heath like Eustacia who realises during the storm that she cannot and it affects trees planted outside the heath. Therefore, the heaths importance cannot be ignored by the reader as Hardy presents the heath as powerful and dominating in the lives of the inhabitants as it is Eustacias position on the heath that prevents her from escaping. The heath does have an important influence on the behaviour of its inhabitants.
The heath provides furze which sustains the heathfolk as it provides food and nourishes them. Therefore, the lives of the heathfolk depend on the fertility of the heath. The occupation of the heathfolk is furze cutting. The basic crop that is the only one that grows on the heath. The heath also provides other occupations like Dairy farmers which Diggory Venn takes up at the end of the book and a Geson-maker which is the occupation of Olly Dowdy. The heath also provides the reddle for Diggory Venns previous occupation. It gives him the red automatum appearance which distinguishes him and emphasises his closeness with the heath.
By providing the heath folk with their occupation, Thomas Hardy suggests that the heath defines the lives of the heath folk therefore without the heath, the heath folk would be without traditional occupations found on the heath. Their livelihood and survival in the age if industrial revolution depends greatly on the heath, therefore the heath folk are more likely to appreciate the heath more than those who do not depend on the heath. Egdon Heath has an impact on the plot of The Return of the Native and this is reflected during the dice game as the heath provides glow worm for the game to continue.
Another way in which the heath has an impact on the plot is through Mrs. Yeobrights death. She is exhausted from inside. The hot weather of the heath means she is exhausted and tired and even water cannot quench her thirst. She dies from exhaustion and the snake bite, which suggests that the heath is persecuting her for sending her son away to Paris and for her oedipal love for Clym. This portrays the heath as a being of some kind which Hardy called the Immanent will; suggesting that the heath is a god or force of some kind to be feared.
Egdon Heath is a symbol of the Immanent Will because it is cruel and impassive. It also symbolises societys hostility towards Eustacia. Eustacia feels trapped on the heath: Egdon was her Hades. The heath is hostile to her and she cannot escape the heath no matter how hard she tries and she realises that the only way she can escape the heath is with the help of a man. She is eventually free in death and the persecution ends. However, Egdon Heath is often seen as a parallel to the biblical Garden of Eden. It is a paradise in which its inhabitants are protected.
However, this is incorrect as the vast nature of the heath emphasises the insignificance of human life. The death of Mrs. Yeobright and the fact that Clym ends up without a wife suggests the end of his family name. Egdon was inspired by Thomas Hardys house in Dorset as a child. It is believed that he had a small heath surrounding his house which he expanded and immortalised in Egdon. In conclusion, Egdon Heath is a character and it is alive. It is important in the lives of the inhabitants. It acts as a guardian as well as a habitat.
Despite its protective nature over the inhabitants, the heath outlives the inhabitants and remains unchanged. The heath is a character as is noted from Hardys focus on description of the heath in the first chapter perhaps making it the most important character in the book because it outlasts the outsiders and defines the insiders. The heath is not barren although it is vast; the heath is a provider for its inhabitants making it impossible for it to be barren. The heath provides the insiders with their occupations and provides them with a setting for events such as May poling which defines the heath folk.