Randolf is a young man who has been given every advantage and who associates with the best of his own generation because of his enrollment in a prestigious English public school (which are ironically tantamount to American private schools). He has a sense of superiority and does not hesitate to feel a sense of dominant authority over his mother, who is a modest woman from humble circumstances. His arrogance turns his superiority into harshness toward his mother as is illustrated by an early exchange between them when he is but "twelve or thirteen" and publicly reprimands and corrects her for her poor grammar:
[The] boy who walked at her elbow said that he hoped his father had not missed them.
'He have been so comfortable these last few hours that I am sure he cannot have missed us,' she replied.
'__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!'
As he aged, this harshness grew to such proportions that he acted as her complete authority, as was in ways typical of sons in Hardy's era, and set the rules for her behavior and privileges. This grew to such an extent that she was year after year denied the right to remarry, after being widowed, and to be wed to the sweetheart of her youth. This relationship of his dominance over her subservience thus described is epitomized by the final scene, her funeral march, when Randolf presides in an unloving, hypocritical, and domineering manner, even going so far as to scorn his dead mother's brokenhearted love of old:
From the railway-station a funeral procession ... passed his door ... a man whose eyes were wet, ... while from the mourning coach a young smooth-shaven priest in a high waistcoat looked black as a cloud ....