Compare and contrast how the relationship between parent and child is portrayed in "The Son's Veto" by Thomas Hardy, and V.S. Pritchett's "The Fly in the Ointment."

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Thomas Hardy's, "The Son's Veto," and "The Fly in the Ointment" by V.S. Pritchett both tell stories of a young man and his parent. However, the role each "boy" assumes in the story is very different.

In "The Son's Veto," the young man's mother married his father—an older man. She had worked for him in his country house; she was below his station, but she had been injured while caring for his home, to the extent that she would never be able to walk and earn her keep. They marry and have a son who grows to be a snob. When his father dies and his mother is left alone—as her son spends barely any time with her...always away at school, etc.—she meets a man who had once loved her. As a widow, she is free and can marry and find happiness. However, when her son finds out, he refuses to allow her to marry someone so "low," fearing for his own reputation. He forces her to promise she will never marry without his consent. Ultimately, she dies waiting.

In "The Fly in the Ointment," Harold goes to visit his father at his place of business. His father has gone bankrupt and his son feels he should be there with his father during this painful transition of leaving everything he has known for thirty years behind.

The old man is not a very nice person. Pritchett describes their meeting in the old man's office.

"Come in, Professor," said the father. This was an old family joke. He despised his son, who was, in fact, not a professor but a poorly paid lecturer at a provincial university.

As they visit, the old man speaks of the mistakes he has made: the biggest was making money the most important thing in his life. However, as the old man speaks, his son notices that he has two "faces."

...the son noticed for the first time that like all big-faced men his father had two faces. There was the outer face like a soft warm and careless daub of innocent sealing-wax and inside it, as if thumbed there by a seal, was a much smaller one, babyish, shrewd, scared and hard.

Harold is slightly put off by what he sees, but tries to encourage his dad. While his father has the "big face" on, he is cheerful, making the best of things. It seems that when the "small face" comes out, he becomes critical of his son. However, throughout, we feel that his father is ready to retire having learned an important life-lesson, seeing his mistakes for what they were. Toward the end of the story, Harold tells his father that had it been possible, he would have found some way to raise money to save the business. Swiftly, like a hawk scooping up a gentle mouse, the old man turns on his son (with the small face)—forgetting all he has said about learning a lesson, ignoring the fact that he despises his son, he demands:

Why didn't you tell me before you could raise money? How can you raise it? Where? By when?

The only things these stories have in common is that there are two young men and each has a parent, and in each story, there is one character who cares for the other, while the first character has no regard for the other, caring only for self. There is one similarity between the stories. Whereas the young man in "The Son's Veto" cares nothing for his mother who has loved him with deep devotion her entire life, Harold (in "The Fly in the Ointment") is the one who shows concern...for his father—an old man who has despised him...but not the money the thinks his son might bring him.

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