What is the concept of predestination depicted in "The Son's Veto" by Thomas Hardy; can you explore this theme?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Predestination is the religious belief that states events in a person's life are ordered in advance by the divinity honored by the religious belief. Predestination is similar to Fate and Destiny in that the individual has no willful choice in what occurs. In other words, all an individual's choices lead to the same end, the predestined end (pre- + destination). Most often, predestination in religious context relates to who receives or is denied spiritual salvation. Since there is neither reference nor allusion to spiritual salvation (except for the professions of Randolf and his father), then any indication of predestination in "The Son's Veto" will refer to predestined events in life.

I suppose some might see predestination at work in Sophy's life because her future was predicated upon a quarrel and a fall and then her son's veto. These were wholly out of her hands. Yet this is a difficult argument to make because textual evidence for the predestined nature of these events is weak, if present at all. A stronger case might be made for the theme of ironic and profound consequences from commonplace choices and random events. With this in mind, let's look at one situation and see what the text says.

Sam asks Sophy to marry him and she accepts. She gives her notice of quiting her post to Vicar Twycott. He asks her if she wants to marry, and she says not so much but that marriage to Sam would give her a home, a strong motive to marry in earlier eras:

'Sam Hobson has asked me to marry him, sir.' [Sophy}

'Well--do you want to marry?' {Mr. Twycott]

'Not much. But it would be a home for me.' [Sophy]

After this, four commonplace things happen that yield profound consequences. (1) Sophy and Sam quarrel. (2) Sophy stays on at Twycott's, having rejected Sam. (3) Mr. Twycott gets ill. (4) Sophy falls and mangles her ankle. What in the text indicates predestined events or what indicates ironic, commonplace choices and random events? Perhaps the text ambiguously indicates both?

The text says in a straightforward way that Twycott decided to reduce his servants by one. Yet he "was forestalled" by Sophy's announcement that she wished to leave. She gives as a reason the fact that the servants have heard the rumor about the planned reduction in staff.

Here we have two instances of synchronicity of life choices: Twycott chooses to let one servant go; Sophy chooses to be Sam's wife and go. The text says Twycott was "forestalled" by Sophy. "Forestalled" means that someone prevents someone's actions by anticipating what is to come and acting in advance. The text also says Sophy knowingly acted in advance to forestall.

Since there is no direct reference or any allusion to religious themes, this is as ambiguous, as we suspected it might be. On the one hand, some might look at this and say, "Ah, ha! predestination was at work. Twycott's and Sophy's lives were intertwined from the beginning!" Yet others would have equal, and perhaps more probable grounds, for saying, "There it is, the tragedy of commonplace decisions leading to extraordinary events and of random events altering the course of life." The fact that none in the resolution find salvation lends added support for the idea of the ironic dominance of commonplace and random events.

Examine a few more places where predestination might enter in, like meeting Sam again and the arguments with Randolf, and look for any reference or allusion to or suggestion of predestination, then evaluate your findings for the relative strength of their support of predestination or otherwise. Also since the occurrences are ambiguous on this point, you might choose to go either way with your analysis.