Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Son's Veto

Of the three stories that were assigned for the last week, I find Thomas Hardy’s "The Son’s Veto" to be the most engaging. Although I was intrigued in with the emotion in Kate Chopin’s "The Story of An Hour" and the descent into insanity in Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s "The Yellow Wallpaper," the strong social and political commentary that is central in "The Son’s Veto" connects the story to me more closely than in "The Story of An Hour" and "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The corrective tone the son takes with his mother at the beginning of the story surprised me. Although I do think it plausible he would develop a superiority complex after a time, the speed with which he developed one shocked me. This pugnacious response to a simple grammatical mistake foreshadows his anger in paragraphs to come: “‘Has, dear mother – not have!’ exclaimed the public-school boy, with an impatient fastidiousness that was almost harsh. ‘Surely you know that by this time!’” (47) The juxtaposition of ‘public-school boy’ and the child’s paternalist statement to his mother ‘surely you know that by this time’ amplifies his true feelings towards his mother and foreshadows further cruelty he will heap on his mother.

I was also taken by the class/gender issues highlighted in the text. Although he was socially required to move to a different part of town, it was possible for the boy’s father to marry someone of a lower class. Yet when his wife desired to re-marry (she was, after all, the second wife of the dead gentleman) she could not, no matter how much she wanted to. Even when it was no longer an issue for her son socially, he still had the ultimate authority to decide her marital prospects. The ‘lens’ one examines these issues through is not simply a class lens or a gender lens – it’s a bifocal lens, as both class and gender have a great influence on the main problem of the story.

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