THE SON’S VETO (1894)
Hardy is the writer of a number of classic novels of the English Victorian era. He stopped writing novels altogether following the outcries that greeted Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895); both were judged in their day to be too explicit in their treatment of personal and social themes. Thereafter he concentrated on writing poetry.
In The Son’s Veto Sophy’s character is presented to us by concentrating on a number of telling moments in her life. The story reveals detail gradually in order to allow us to build up an impression of her. The narrator begins writing from the perspective of a man viewing the woman’s immaculate hair from behind. We hear the exchange of dialogue between son and mother in which the former rebukes the latter for her poor grammar ‘with an impatient fastidiousness that was almost harsh’. The boy’s sensitivity here will eventually lead to his veto over his mother’s wish to re-marry. The vignette of the public-school cricket match illustrates, perhaps best of all, the class consciousness at the heart of the story.
How do students respond to Hardy’s depiction of the boy who eventually becomes the ‘young smooth-shaven priest’ at the end of the story? Encourage them to consider how Hardy makes us feel sorry for the mother.
Encourage students to read other short stories by Thomas Hardy such as “The Withered Arm” and “Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver”. They might also try novels popular at IGCSE/O Level including Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, and poems such as ‘The Voice’ and ‘The Darkling Thrush’.
‘The Fly in the Ointment’ by V.S. Pritchett
‘The Village Saint’ by Bessie Head
‘On Her Knees’ by Tim Winton
Online biographical and critical texts on Hardy can be found at: