Please comment on the theme of "The Son's Veto" by Thomas Hardy.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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It might be said that the theme of "The Son's Veto" is introduced at the end of the first paragraph: "seemed a reckless waste of successful fabrication."

Here, of course, the narrator is speaking of the "fabrication" of Sophy's hairstyle that would be undone that night and perhaps, perhaps not, redone the next day. Yet, if we recognize Sophy's hair as a metaphor for her life--marking it as valuable and intricate--then we can see the theme of a "reckless waste" of Sophy's life and happiness by, first, the unintentionally disrespectful vicar and, second, the cold-hearted, proud, arrogantly disrespectful son.

While vicar Twycott (name meaning: Twy: two; -cott: hard-hearted) was sincere in his love for Sophy, with no decline in his love indicated by the text, he was protective of his association with her low class village upbringing. To protect himself from this lowly association with his former maid, he moved to a church parish in south London where Sophy's background would be unknown and of little interest.   

Twycott knew perfectly well that he had committed social suicide by [his marriage], despite Sophy's spotless character, and he had ... arranged ... [for] a church in the south of London, ... abandoning their pretty country home, with trees and shrubs and glebe, ....

Twycott protected himself, taking "much trouble with [Sophy's] education," but he failed to protect Sophy when their son, Randolph Twycott (two of hard-heart), grew old enough to criticize Sophy's country speech: old enough "to perceive these deficiencies ... [and] to feel irritated at their existence."

This is important because it lays the groundwork for Randolph's reactions after his father's death to Sophy's wish to marry Sam, her first love and the village grocer. Randolph screamed about the humiliation he would surfer and how he would be devalued as a gentleman if she were to marry a country grocer. Randolph cemented his emotional reaction by extracting her promise not to wed Sam and by remaining resolute in his demands even after securing a living (a parish church) as a new clergyman, going so far as to keep Sam from her on her final funereal journey to her grave:

from the mourning coach a young smooth-shaven priest in a high waistcoat looked black as a cloud at the shop keeper standing there.

With the behavior of these two hard-hearted men in view, it is easy to see the theme of their having wasted the valuable treasure of Sophy's life. It is equally easy to see Sophy's hair as an underlying metaphor for Sophy's life and the overarching metaphor of the story, a metaphor that elucidates and emphasizes the meaning of the theme. 

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