The Son’s Veto by Thomas Hardy
In The Son’s Veto by Thomas Hardy we have the theme of freedom, class, appearance, insecurity, acceptance and powerlessness. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Hardy may be exploring the theme of freedom. Sophy does not have the freedom to marry Sam. Though she wishes to do so Randolph will not allow his mother to marry him. This may be important as it is possible that Hardy is suggesting that not only does Sophy not have the freedom to marry who she wants but she also appears to be controlled by Randolph whose refusal to allow his mother marry Sam is based more on appearance and how he will be perceived by his peers. It is as though class is more important to Randolph than his mother’s happiness. Sam is lower class while Randolph considers himself to be upper middle class. It might also be important that Randolph becomes a priest as one would expect a priest to treat everybody equally. This is not something that Randolph seems able to do. He believes himself to be more important than he actually is showing very little empathy towards his mother.
Similarly with Randolph’s father. As readers we discover that he has left Aldbrickham because he had concerns that people might judge him over the fact it would be considered that when he married Sophy. He married beneath his class. In fact throughout the story Sophy is made to feel or at least believes that she is simply a lower class woman. This may be significant as not only does the reader sense that Sophy may feel somewhat insecure within herself because of her class but also her gender may be playing a role in the position that Sophy finds herself in. Rather than it being Sophy who dictates the course of action she wishes to take and marry Sam. It is Randolph as the man of the house who takes control of his mother’s life. Which may have been the case for many women at the time the story was published (1894). If anything woman may have been without a voice when it came to matters that directly concerned them. The male in the family (and outside the family) deciding on the course of action that a woman may take.
Though some readers might suggest that Randolph is acting selfishly it might be important to remember that he is simply adhering to accepted societal norms of the time. However there is no doubting that should the same occur today many would view Randolph’s actions to be firstly inappropriate and secondly misguided. It is also noticeable that the first time in the story that Sophy moves without the aid of the wheelchair is when she is meeting Sam. This could be important as symbolically Hardy may be suggesting that Sam brings an element of freedom into Sophy’s life. A freedom that is further noticeable when Sophy first thinks about telling Randolph about Sam. She is seen while watching the cricket walking or rather limping. Again she is moving without the aid of the wheelchair. However when Randolph refuses to give his permission to his mother and allow her to marry Sam. Sophy becomes housebound till her death. A death that takes only four years since Sophy first travelled with Sam on his wagon. This too may be significant as it suggests that Sophy may have given up on life. She has been denied the opportunity to return to Aldbrickham and marry Sam.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Sophy accepts the position she finds herself in and adheres to what Randolph thinks when it comes to her marrying Sam. It is as though she is powerless when it comes to the direction she would like to take her life. Something that again would have been considered the norm at the time. For a woman not to be allowed to make up her own mind and live her life as she sees fit. Throughout the story Sophy has lived her life as either her husband or Randolph has dictated. With the reader aware that both men were more concerned about how they would be perceived by others than whether Sophy might be happy in the situation she found herself in. Throughout the story Sophy has been controlled by either her husband or Randolph. Which may leave some readers to suggest that the reality is both men may have felt insecure. Needing to control Sophy in order to portray an image to others that they think may be appropriate. That being the male having absolute control over the female. It being more important for Randolph to display an outwardly image of contentment than it is for Sophy to have the opportunity to be happy.