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'The Son's Veto': Is Sophy a victim of society?

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Introduction

'The Son's Veto': Is Sophy a victim of society? By most interpretations of the short story 'The Son's Veto' by the poet and novelist Thomas Hardy, Sophy was a victim. She suffered an injury that left her unable to 'walk and bustle about'; married a man that she 'did not exactly love'; moved to an environment with which she had no connexion; living on a road with 'sooty trees' and 'hazy air'; with 'her almost only companions the two servants of her own house'; raised a son for whom she had unlimited unreturned love but with whom she was not at all similar; and was denied by this very son for whom she had such love, the chance of an 'idyllic life' with Sam Hobson. Sophy was a victim of these events, but by what was she victimised? This is the question that I am attempting to address in this essay. There are several possible answers to this question. She may have been a victim of her own character and choices, of the character and choices of those around her or of pure bad luck. On the other hand, she may have been the victim of the society in which she lived, although these things are not always clearly distinct from each other. Sophy suffered from significant bad luck in the story.

Middle

Randolph's education was not the only example of the way in which society contributed to Sophy's victimisation. Like the story, Hardy's life was set in the nineteenth century, where sexist views and classist opinions were not only commonplace but were considered right and proper. Most Victorians were deeply religious, and argument with the church was unacceptable and intolerable. Women were the possessions of firstly their fathers and then their husbands. The classes were considered to have been placed in their rightful social positions, and marriages between the classes were heavily frowned upon, and all of these view points were part of Victorian society. As a result of these social attitudes, remaining in their own village would have been 'social suicide' for the vicar and his wife. They therefore had to move to London, but Sophy felt out of place in the 'long, straight' road with 'sooty trees' and 'hazy air'. This shows us that Sophy had been victimised by her marriage, but this was not the fault of her husband but the fault of society's expectations. When referring to 'sooty trees' and 'hazy air', Hardy shows his own contempt for the cramped, industrial cities of the Victorian era, but by expressing these whilst referring to Sophy's home from a narrative view point that is sympathetic with Sophy, he implies that she found it

Conclusion

This is why Hardy, as well as using the narrator to create a disadvantaged image of Sophy, makes certain comments as the narrator that appear ridiculous even as they are read, such as the description of Sophy's personal income as 'modest'. In conclusion, a combination of bad luck, her own weak character, her husband's well intentioned kindness and her son's cold hearted character all contributed to Sophy's miserable ending. But despite this long list of reasons, it was the society in which she lived that made her so inferior and dependent. It is the education that society provided to its elite at 'one of the most distinguished' public schools in the country that makes a monster of her son, causing him to lose 'those wide infantine sympathies, extending as far as to the sun and moon themselves, with which he, like other children, had been born' and teaching him to care only about a population of a few thousand wealthy and titled people', of which his mother was not one. This same society also provided Randolph with a right to forbid his mother to marry: 'The Son's Veto'. It also gave him the assumption of his own superiority that gave him the confidence and callousness to use it. It is this, the title, subject and crux of the story that is caused by society, and therefore in my opinion Sophy is entirely the victim of the society in which she lived.

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