Thomas Hardy was born in rural England where he spent his early life training as an architect. His family did not have much money and this made him acutely conscious of social inequalities in Victorian England. He moved to London when he was a young man and worked there for a time. He later returned to Dorset, becoming a fulltime writer. The decay of rural Britain, the status of women in society and social inequalities of his times and the Christian idea of God are some of the recurring themes we see in Thomas Hardy’s novels. Many of his stories are set in semi-fictional Wessex. Thomas Hardy’s characters struggle against adverse social circumstances, strong passions and an inexorable fate that decides the path of their life. Thomas Hardy’s works were much admired by later day writers and his position as a poet has seen enhancement in the later twentieth century.
A Son’s Veto: Background/Setting
The story A Son’s Veto is set in rural England in its early parts before moving to inner city London. Sophy, the principal female character of this story belongs to Gaymead, a village set in a remote corner of North Wessex where she worked as a parlour maid in the parson’s house. The story later shifts to London suburbs. Like Thomas Hardy himself, Sophy too never felt completely at home in London. The values of Victorian England and the social mores find echoes in this story. The vicar’s marriage to Sophy is considered “social suicide” and they escape to London with its anonymity to escape scrutiny.
Rev. Twycott was the vicar at Gaymead, a little village in North Wessex. Following the death of his wife, he becomes aware of Sophy’s devotion in caring for him. Following the sad little accident that left Sophy incapacitated, perhaps feeling responsible, Twycott proposes marriage to her. Twycott has committed what in his eyes was “social suicide” and he moves, exchanging the charming Gaymead for dull and drab south of London. The Reverend seems to have had a poor opinion of Sophy as a manager of money and on his death allowed her only a small allowance and the use of a small house. Twycott continued to control Sophy’s life from his grave. Twycott is a typical Victorian man who decides for others what he thinks is best for them.
Hardy’s women characters suffer at the hands of fate and an unkind society. Sophy is gentle and attractive and devoted. Her only flaw was that she was not a great judge of what was best for her. She agrees to marriage with Rev. Twycott. She respects him but there is no love in this marriage, naturally. Her influence on Randolph her son is negligible and the boy grows up thinking his mother to be inferior to him in learning and position. Sophy has no control over her life. Her husband has left her only a small sum of money; the rest is under the control of trustees. She loves her son with tenderly and does not want to hurt him in any way but the boy has only crumbs to shower on her. Too late she realizes that she would have been happy with Sam but Randolph does allow her the freedom to make her decision and follow it. Too long Sophy has allowed others to control her life. Her immobility becomes a symbol for her dependence in life on her son’s will.
Randolph is a poor specimen of humanity. Even as a young boy he displayed a condescending attitude towards his mother that bordered on impatience. As he grows up, he becomes acutely conscious of the difference in their status. He is the son of a gentleman but his mother is of poor stock. She lacks education and “culture” and is not worthy of being considered his equal. She dotes on him but he considers her with ill concealed impatience. Her love for him is of no importance to him and he seeks the company of others of equal station in life. When he enters Church, she hopes that he would take a more humane view of her and the less fortunate world but the more he studies the more humanity he seems to lose it. Her desire to marry