Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Son's Veto and Hardy's Take on the City

After reading The Son’s Veto, one of the things I took most from the conflict between Sophy and her son is just how many levels it works on. Of course, it works on the surface level of a mother and son relationship as well as a complicated male versus female level. Furthermore, it works on a social level because of her sons decidedly “high” class status as compared to her want to be a member of the “low” class. What level I was most interested in, though, is as Sophy as a representative of the country and her son as a representative of the city. This is a dichotomy which Hardy explores vastly in his work, and this is certainly no exception. We see Sophy come from the country, but later have to go to the city with her husband. When she gets to the city, her life takes a decidedly downward turn, ending up with her untimely death. Where the country that Hardy idealizes so much shines through is in the form of Sam. In the character of Sam we see what Hardy sees in the country. He is a hard working self-made man. He is a decidedly good man who sees past Sophy’s disability and goes out of his way to make her happy. He even decides to marry Sophy for love, an idea that is written about much in the English literature of the Victorian Era. The fact that he is marrying for love rather than money is a cue to us as readers that this is a good guy in the story. Sophy’s son, however, works in contrast to both her and to Sam. He is so concerned by the way he will be seen in his environment that he will not allow his mother to marry, and thus causes her untimely death. I do not think, though, that Hardy wants us to view her son as a bad person, but rather as a product of his environment. Sophy was raised in the country, so she was instilled with the good aspects of that environment, while her son was born and raised in the south London community in which we find them. As much as there are important social questions about gender and class in this work, they can all be summed up by looking at the contrast between the city and the country.

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