Explore the ways in which Hardy presents the tragedy of "The Son's Veto" in the last five paragraphs of the story.From "It was dropped for months..." until "....at the shopkeeper standing there."

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hardy presents the tragedy in "The Son's Veto" by presenting time, a compelled sworn oath, education and clerical practice, a neat black suit and a funeral procession, a black glowering cloud and a high waistcoat. To Hardy's credit as a storyteller, the reader isn't ready to believe in the final outcome until the "funeral procession was seen approaching" and the man is past "whose eyes were wet."

Hardy builds suspense in and sympathy for the tragedy by repeating the time gone by--directly or by indirect reference--in each of the last five paragraphs:

  1. abandoned under his repugnance; again attempted; and thus the gentle creature reasoned and pleaded till four or five long years had passed
  2. He showed a more manly anger now
  3. His education had by this time sufficiently ousted his humanity
  4. Her lameness became more confirmed as time went on
  5. Some four years after this date

His presentation of the son's unfeeling coldness through the oath he forces his mother to take before his bedroom alter (an ironic location for the alter--usually erected in prominent places--meant to devalue it and emphasize the son's disproportionate sense of importance) increases the reader's sense of the mother's suffering thus leading up to the final tragedy. This is emphasized when we learn that "she seemed to be pining her heart away," while muttering to herself, "Why mayn't I say to Sam that I'll marry him? Why mayn't I?"

The final impact of the growing tragedy comes in the fifth paragraph during the seemingly budding details, though the metaphor of "budding" results in the bloom of a weeping black blossom. Hardy presents a prosperous "middle-aged man" standing in front of his shop while dressed in a good black suit on a work day. This portends of a special event--one hopes the long awaited wedding before her final suffering in death. But then Hardy presents the funeral procession--though readers may still hope it is only an allusion to what was escaped--and the undeniably significant "man, whose eyes were wet." Here, the reader gives up on the hope that the black suit is intended for a long belated wedding and yields to the understanding of the funeral train as the ultimate end of the romance. Hardy escapes any semblance of ambiguity by ending with the metaphoric simile of the black cloud glowering "at the shop keeper."