In the barren moor of Egdon Heath, a wild tract of country in the southwest of England, one native yearns to escape to city life while another has just returned from that life, unimpressed.
Clym Yeobright, a former diamond merchant in Paris, returns home to become a schoolmaster in Egdon, where he falls passionately in love with the sensuous, free-spirited Eustacia Vye. Infatuated with his seeming glamour, she marries him in hopes of greater adventure—but when her hopes are disappointed, she rekindles an affair with Clym's reckless cousin, Damon.
Injured by forces beyond their control, Hardy's characters struggle vainly in the net of destiny. In the end, only the face of the lonely heath remains untouched by fate. This masterpiece of tragic passion perfectly epitomizes the author's melancholy genius.