The Son’s Veto by Thomas Hardy

The Son’s Veto: Thomas Hardy.

Written in the late 19th century and published in the collection Life’s Little Ironies, this story focuses on Hardy’s usual areas – rural England and its demise; the position of women in society; the class system and the role of the church in sustaining it and the ironic nature of much of life.

In brief:

The demise of rural England is best shown in the comparison between Gaymead (the name itself being telling) and London as shown at the end of the first chapter and in the second chapter in particular.  After the false rurality of the London park, the reader is transported back to the wide spaces and peace of rural life before the contrast with the dirt and enclosed nature of London (49.7) in a sequence of direct contrasts.  It is worth noting here Hardy’s use of the short sentence to drive home a point: “It was all on her account”.  Here the narrator seems both accusatory as well as explanatory. Indeed these short sentences might also suggest that the omniscient narrator is telling us precisely what Sophy is thinking.

Later the country comes to town in a sequence of brightly coloured carts in the small hours of the morning, each is however described as impregnable – “bastions… walls… howdahs” as if those living on the city can never enter the world of the country.

Women in society is a driving motif in much of Hardy’s writing –prose and poetry.  Here the focus is on Sophy for whom Hardy has great sympathy which shines through the whole piece from the opening.  Students should consider the ways in which Hardy generates sympathy in the opening (46-47.5).  Hardy repeatedly uses language to great effect – simple asides (“poor thing”) and specific adjective choice (“soft, brown, affectionate orbs…”) are mixed with a story that quickly puts the woman into the role of an object – “To the eyes of a man viewing it from behind…”- and a narrative that reproduces on a human scale the reality of the class system of the Victorian age: “Has, dear Mother, not have!” – where a son, even one as young as Randolph at this time seems to have complete ownership of his mother. This is highlighted throughout the tale: “Sophy the woman… Sophy the lady”; Mr Twycott knew perfectly well that he had committed social suicide…” and so on.  There are simply too many to list.

The church is often the focus of Hardy’s displeasure and here he attacks again the hypocrisy of the church and focuses on its propensity to attract clergy drawn by social improvement rather than by Christian virtues.  Randolph’s nadir, as he makes his mother kneel and swear away her happiness to protect his position (55.6) is a chilling example of this driven.  He is driven by his wish to maintain a position amongst the “gentlemen of England” and damns his mother, already lonely and infirm, to a miserable death.  There is no doubt that Hardy wants his readers to see Sam, the newman – tradesman and shop owner as a far better match for Sophy than her arrogant, religious, son.  For Hardy, humanity came before false religiosity and much evidence of this can be found here.

Narrative voice

An omniscient position is adopted throughout.  Hardy the “voyeur” is somewhat typical.  Not only does the narrator use the third person to tell his tale, but he seems to know the inner thoughts of the protagonists.  Moreover, he puts himself as an interlocutor with the reader as at the opening of part two: “the next time we get a glimpse…”.  Here there is a sense of collusion that firmly places the reader into a position of responsibility with regards to the morals being explored.  The narration is not impartial, however, and we should notice the techniques by which Hardy explores his sympathy for Sophy and distances himself from Randolph.  As suggested earlier, the great poet makes precise use of descriptors to make his point.

Even when she is upwardly mobile and marrying Twycott, Hardy after reminding us clearly of the necessity for women to marry (Sam can not provide a home, yet, and that is more important than love) describes Sophy using images associated with domestic pets – “kitten like, flexuous, tender” –undoubtedly attractive but surely also demeaning when associated with Twycott’s vision of his young wife.


Understanding the meaning of literary texts and their contexts, and explore text beyond surface meanings to show deeper awareness of ideas and attitudes

Using  grids to reinforce IGCSE questions on use of specific language, students should explore key sections and identify examples of specific language use:  E.G.

Section Word/phrase Conventional meaning Effect created here
Opening – 47.6 If somewhat barbaric Slightly uncivilised, implication of violence? The hairstyle is barbaric – it is uncivilised to expect women to adorn themselves in this manner.
  Soft, brown…orbs Tender, gentle little spheres. The orbs relate to the sun and the sense of life that is given by the sun.  The size is highlighted as is the nature of Sophy’s personality.


The three protagonists should be considered with individual character maps drawn up for each of Sophy, Randolph and Sam.  Care should be taken to address not just what they feel, but how others see them.  All must be based on evidence from the text.

Obvious ideas to focus on:  E.G.

Character Narrative view View of others evidence
Sophy “good “ country girl, in need of protection   48.3
    Ignorant and shaming even to a child (R) 47.5
  dutiful   48-49
  Trapped  by society and naive   50.5
  Natural in behaviour   50.8
    Needs protection, not independent 50.6
  Lonely and bored by life   51.2-4  53.5(response to Sam)
  Raised to new social status – untouchable Raised to new social status – untouchable (S) 52.7


Randolph Arrogant young man   47-48
  Socially mobile   50.9
    Unnatural in behaviour (So) 54.1
    Abusive of position in relation to Sophy (Sa) 54.2
  Guardian of morals and social system   55.5


Sam Hardworking and honest despite low status   48.4, 52.4 etc
    Indicative of moral corruption of weakening of class system (R) 54.8-55.4
  A good man, capable of real Christian feeling   55.9

 Suggested outline:

Lesson 1 2 3 4

Focus on Section 1, character of Sophy. Randolph from opening.  Social suicide idea to be followed into 2  HMWK: specific lang chart for opening sympathy.

2: social suicide – how shown.  Country/town clash.

Affect of Sam’s arrival (direct speech)

Randolph and Sophy: characters developed.

Language choice (pg 54.5)


HMWK specific language chart for negative view of Randolph.

Whole story:


Context starter based on prior HMWK

 Notes on typical essay questions – 10 minutes each.

  Typical essay questions for note activity:

  • ·         Write a diary entry by Sophy for the day at Lords on pg 54
  • ·         How does Hardy generate sympathy for Sophy?
  • ·         In the passage starting “It was only April” (51.9) and ending  at the close of part two, how does                 Hardy create a sense of excitement and disappointment?
  • ·         How does Hardy make the character of Randolph memorable?
  • ·         You are Sam.  Write your account of your relationship with Sophy for your memoirs.

At Hiruharama by Penelope Fitzgerald (notes)

This short story is about a man and his wife’s life. Mr. Tanner meets with Kitty at a store and they get married. When Tanner learns that Kitty is pregnant, he gets surprised. He starts to do some calculations about the big day. He goes to the doctor and asks him about life statistics. Then he buys some pigeons to call the doctor. When the big day comes, Tanner gets excited and at that time their neighbour Brinkman comes. Brinkman is a man who is very lonely and isolated. He is interested in women also. After that, Tanner manages to born the baby. Unfortunetly, he throws the second baby away. The doctor comes and saves the second baby. and Tanner hangs his motto on his wall, “Throw Nothing Away”.


Mr. Tanner:

  • worried
  • anxious
  • apprehensive
  • distressed
  • restless
  • fearful
  • cautious
  • uneasy
  • loving


  • placid
  • tranquil
  • calm
  • quiet,
  • peaceful
  • strong


  • self centered
  • selfish
  • calm
  • carefree
  • reckless
  • absorbed
  • lonely
  • isolated
  • desperate


Fitzgerald’s narration is very inportant. It is a third person limited narration which we can not understand any deeper feelings of the characters. The narration becomes first person narration because the author wants to explain a story about Tanner and Kitty in a believeable way.

Author’s word choice is very important. Doctor’s movements and characters actions explained with this.

Also the attitudes of the characters are portrayed so well that the reader feels like the story is real.


Mansfield, brought up in New Zealand, was a notable writer of short stories.

Get students to explore the ways in which Mansfield presents Leila’s thoughts and feelings before and during the ball. It would be useful to consider the way in which Leila is different from the other girls and how this affects their (and our) impressions of her. How do they think Mansfield captures the excitement of the ball? Students should pay particular attention to the contribution to the story of the two men who dance with Leila, the odious fat man and then the young man with curly hair. They should examine carefully the words Mansfield uses in the dialogue and description to guide readers’ responses to the various characters.

Wider reading

Other short stories by Katherine Mansfield such as

The Daughters of the Late Colonel and The Garden Party


Students might enjoy the novel

The Getting of Wisdom

(by Henry Handel Richardson) about a twelve year old girl’s experience at a boarding school in Melbourne (which has been popular as a past IGCSE set text).

Compare with

The Yellow Wall Paper

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Destructors

by Graham Greene

The Taste of Watermelon

by Borden Deal

To Da-duh, In Memoriam

by Paule Marshall

Her First Ball (Student Notes)

It is about a country girl called Leila who has never been to a ball. Her cousins invited her to a ball and she got very excited. She was very unexperienced about city life and balls. An interesting night was waiting Leila with a gorgeous drill hall and some weird partners. Leila was dreaming a beatiful life but she couldn’t find what she expected…

The story starts in cab, then ladies room. It is the introduction of the story. Rising action starts with partners. First and second partners starts to increase tension. When fat man comes to dance with Leila, climax starts. His comments is the part that the tension is the highest. After that, fat man’s leaving and 4th partner is the falling action. The forth partner and Leila’s dancing is very important but we can not call that climax. Finally, when the ball was over the reader comes to the conclusion and the story ends.

The author wrote this story with third omniscient person.(the “eye” of God) We can see everything with this method in the story, Leila’s feelings,the atmosphere etc. Unfortunately there are some things that reader can see but Leila can’t. The author also used an amazing method called stream of consciousness method. This method creates the excitement in the story. Leila was very careful in the beginning then at the end everything become a beautiful flying wheel. The author wanted to explain a lot of themes in the story like naivety, old generation vs. new generation and innocence. Every circumstance has a different tone and theme in the story that the reader can get thrilled easily.

The tone of this story is thrilling,exciting and different. Fat man and Leila’s dancing is very exciting in the story. Unfortunetly, mood is always changing in the story, We can say happy, excited, nervous, sad, disappointed, careful, relaxed, careless, fearful and thrilling for the mood of the story. When we look at the personifications, waltzing lamp posts,quivering jet of gas dancing, flags were talking can be ex. for it. There are a few ironies in the story but they make it stronger. The invisible hairpin can be the best example for irony.

My Greatest Ambition (Student Notes)

It is about a boy who wants to be a comic-strip artist one day. He explains his friend’s attitudes towards his job in first person narration. He draws his first comic and sent to a magazine for publication with the help of his friend. Magazine likes his comic and offers him some money. Lurie the protagonist becomes very happy and draws his second comic and again sends it to the magazine. Magazine rejects his second work and Lurie gets very disappointed. He grew out of comics after that…

Lurie:(Dynamic Character)

  • dreamer
  • changes his mind quickly
  • hopeful
  • exaggerative
  • 13 years old
  • anxious
  • impatient
  • isolated
  • careless about his father
  • confused


  • cares about only money
  • materialist
  • a great scoffer
  • impatient
  • not sophisticated
  • stubborn
  • humiliates his son

Michael Lazarus:

  • helpful
  • supports Lurie
  • put publication in Lurie’s mind


  • does not respond to Lurie
  • loves gossip
  • loves to brag about achievements
  • not so impressive on her son

Mr Randell

  • dishonest
  • fake behaviours
  • editor of the magazine
  • sees Lurie as a child
  • first person narration
  • the words and phrases used in parantheses
  • father’s weird accent(we see that the family is immigrant)
  • use of dialogues to create characterization and themes
  • good word choice
  • repetition of questions
  • organisation of story and language
  • Lurie’s own childhood memory

Custody of the Pumpkin (Use of Humour)


  • obsession, Ambition,priority
  • social class difference
  • humuiliation
  • prejudice
  • materialism
  • arrogance
  • sarcasm and humour

Ways that creates the humour:

  • Use of similes:(like an elderly leopard, like a fish, like a setter… etc.)

It helps to understand the characters better by indirect characterization. Character’s actions and emotions are explained. It also creates the tone and mood.

  • Narration: Third person omniscient limited

It is useful for characterization. We can easily understand Lord’s attitude towards son. It creates the protagonist and it helps us to understand Lord’s thoughts and effects on the other characters better.

  • Diction: showing the class difference

It is useful for characterization. The category difference between the characters are outstanding. Repetition and exaggeration is also used to create the humuor.

  • Setting: It changes throughout the story. (Imagery)

With the help of diction and imagery, setting is created. Imagery is used here because ıt helps to understand and think about the story better.

  • Tone/Mood:

As the tone and mood is humorous, it creates the humour. It is created by character’s actions.

  • İrony:

Ironies also help the reader to think about the story, to feel the story and to feel the humour.

Custody of a Pumpkin (Plot)

This story is about a Lord, who just thinks of his pumpkins, instead of his son. English upper-class society reflects the author’s birth, education and youthful writing career. Lord Emsworth, the protagonist sees his son kissing a girl who is the cousin of his head-gardener. He immediately fires his gardener and the girl. Then he regrets about it and goes to London to take him back. When he goes there he gets humiliated by the crowd. He meets with the girl’s father, MR. Donalson. Mr. Donaldson sais that he loved Lord’s son and want to take him to America to work with him. Lord Emsworth accepts it and he gets happy that his son is going away. After that, his head-gardener Angus comes back and they win a prize in a pumpkin competition.

Custody of Pumpkin (Characterisation)

Lord Emsworth:

  • fluffy minded
  • amiable old gentleman
  • arrogant
  • upper-class
  • Ninth Earl of Emsworth
  • wealthy
  • loves gardening
  • elegant
  • protagonist
  • conceited
  • haughty
  • selfish
  • bossy

Hon. Freddie:

  • son of Lord Emsworth
  • does not like loyalty
  • naughty
  • respectful
  • intelligent
  • young
  • smiling
  • different in morals, appearance


  • medium-height
  • red beard
  • honest
  • intelligent
  • passionate
  • cute
  • has a weird talking
  • respectful
  • faithful
  • helpful
  • patriot


  • servant
  • faithful
  • helpful
  • respectful

Robert Barker:

  • low-class
  • useless
  • gardener

Aggie Donaldson:

  • beatiful
  • young
  • cousin of Angus
  • play the saxophone
  • friendly

Mr. Donaldson:

  • rich
  • lives in states
  • Dog- Biscuits company
  • likes Fredddie
  • friendly
  • modest
  • humble
  • respectful
  • helpful
  • tall
  • handsome
  • keen

Sir Gregory:

  • gentleman
  • sportman
  • upper-class
  • loves gardening
  • kind
  • rival for Emsworth
  • has a brooding look

The Hunting Snake (Student Notes)

It is a simple poem with 4 stanzas and monosyllabic lines. This simple structure, shows the harmony of the nature. Speaker adores the nature and she realizes the importance of nature in the poem. Snake’s movements and the speaker’s attitude is regular and tight that the poem is  very easy to understand with this structure.

The sound effects used in this poem represents snake’s movements and actions. It is effective for the speaker because she gets frightened and impressed of snake’s actions. Alliteration is mostly used to describe these things.(“f” sound in followed,food-”s” sound in still,stood) Aliteration helps us to feel like the speaker.

Imagery and contrast are also very important. Visual imagery like “under the autumn’s gentlest sky” shows the peaceful mood and tone. Imagery shows admiration,awe,scary mood mostly. It creates the effect of the speaker’s feelings towards the snake.

An essay by a student about these points:

This poem is considered one of the most simple poems , yet striking in its experience. It deals with a personal feeling experienced by the poet who happened to meet a snake once. Her feeling at that moment is somewhat confusing. She is bewildered by  the sense of awe and fear and how these two contradictory feelings co-exist and intermingle in a way that surprises not only the speaker but also the reader.

The poem is written in traditional four-line stanzas, a simple rhythm and rhyme pattern. The speaker opens the poem with a perfect picture. It’s a wonderful weather “sun-warmed in this late season’s grace”, it’s autumn where the weather is mostly warm and quiet. The first stanza suggests that everything seem in harmony, the sky is “gentlest” and the pace is slow and romantic. Such words never bring in the reader’s mind any suspicion or doubt. On the contrary, it suggests tranquility and romanticism. However, what breaks this silence and peaceful mood is the appearance of “great black snake” the image itself is shocking and horrifying. The reader never imagined the “reeling by” snake. The vivid imagery used in this stanza sounds wonderful and appealing.

Moving on to the second stanza, the speaker starts giving a graphic description of that “great black snake”, the colour itself is terrifying and build an intense image that contradicts with the perfect picture she created earlier. The speaker extends this horrific picture through the few lines that followed “head down, tongue flickering on the trail” the reader senses danger every where now. The speaker is building a dark, scary picture of a snake who is wondering about looking for a prey in the grass.