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Thomas Hardy: 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Son's Veto'.

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Pre-1914 Prose Coursework Thomas Hardy: 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Son's Veto'. In the two stories, 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Son's Veto', Hardy represent the way in which woman were treated and the problems they faced in the social society. 'The Withered Arm' is based on supernatural beliefs and a story of incubus, whereas 'The Son's Veto' is much more rooted in realism. The incidents in the story spring from relationships and social snobbery, unlike 'the Withered Arm' were the basis of the story is formed because of a supernatural visitation. We can infer that both women have interesting pasts. From the milkmaids gossiping in 'The Withered Arm' implicates that there as been a past history between Rhoda and the farmer. Whereas in 'The Son's Veto' we are told about Sophy's past explicitly. Another similarity between Sophy and Gertrude is that they are both in someway affected physically. Sophy lameness is natural whereas Gertrude's affliction is caused by a paranormal element. There is a distinct difference between Rhoda's relationship with her son and Sophy and the relationship between her and her son, Rupert. The relationship between Rhoda and her son, is a relationship of warmth, love and closeness, there is a feel of affection between them. Whereas in 'The Son's Veto' the relationship between Sophy and Randolph is one of an emotional chasm, they are much more distanced from each other. Ostensibly there is closeness between them, but it is a superficial closeness. 'Her great grief in this relation was that her only child, on whose education no expense had bee and would be spared, was now old enough to perceive these deficiencies in his mother' Hardy is successfully able to evoke sympathy in the reader; the reader gains a huge amount of empathy for Sophy and the way she is treated by her son. Randolph is irritated and embarrassed by his mother's dramatical faux pas. ...read more.


In 'The Son's Veto' Sophy is introduced by Hardy in a way which induces readers sympathy, Sophy is an invalid. Sophy's relationship with the Parson is one of closeness and kindliness. '' No, Sophy; lame or not, I cannot let you go. You must never me again!'' Her lameness helps bring the parson and her closer together. Here we see a contrast with 'The Withered Arm' as Gertrude's affliction causes her relationship with Farmer Lodge to deteriorate, they both become alienated from each other. The Parson cared deeply for Sophy, he tried to help her over come her dramatical errors in her speech. The parson does see Sophy's social background as a blemish, not her lameness. Whereas in 'The Withered Arm' we see the reverse. Rhoda as a physical imperfection, not one of social background. 'Her husband had taken much trouble with her education; but she still held confused ideas on the use of 'was' and 'were',' This shows that the parson really cherished Sophy. He took time to teach her, and it shows he had the patience to instruct her. It shows he understood her feelings, and how she felt embarrassed because of her speech impediment. He wanted her to feel loved and respected, and did not want her to feel bad because of the errors in her speech. When the Parson dies we again feel sympathy for Sophy, as the parson has excluded Sophy from their son's future and major decisions that she may have wanted to share her opinions on. She has been given no control over her future or her son's. 'She was left with no control over anything that had been her husband's beyond her modest personal income.' This makes us feel a sense of protectiveness from the Parson. He wants everything to be arranged, so that Sophy will not have to be troubled by it. This shows the strong, loving and protecting relationship between Sophy and the Parson. ...read more.


But because of social snobbery there is a sad, cold distance between Sophy and son at Sophy's death. This increases our sadness and sorrow we feel for Sophy. There is still a sense of distance between the mother and son. The setting of the two stories also shows a great impact on the themes and moods of the stories. In 'The Withered Arm' the community is built on superstition. The pastoral community believed in the dark arts and superstition, whereas 'The Son's Veto' is set in the urban society, where superstition did not have an impact on their lives. It was much more sophisticated, urbane and refined. In urban communities people did not allow superstition to have an effect on their local life's, it did not affect the community. Instead, urban communities, were much more concerned and engrossed in social rank. The communal class had a large effect on their lives. On the other hand, social class did not affect rural communities, as most people living in the areas were working class and no one was of a higher class than someone else. The endings of the two stories are in similar vein. We see both women lose something. Sophy loses her emotions and glimmer of hope between her and Sam, as she dies. Sophy's pain is over, she no longer as to worry about her social rank and she is no longer going to be able to be dishonoured and humiliated by her iniquity, austere son. His intransigence means his mother dies unhappy and unfulfilled, whereas Rhoda's pain is not over. The two stories end differently. In 'The Withered Arm' Hardy concludes the story where it began. Rhoda again sits away from the other milkmaids. She is still isolated and alone, this increases our sympathy towards her. Whereas in 'The Son's Veto' the ending of the story is more tragic. It is full of unfilled promises and hopes. We are left with a poignant tableau. The ending suggests a world of missed opportunities. ...read more.

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