The Son's Veto
As the story begins we are introduced to the protagonist, Sophy, who we soon learn comes from rather “humble” beginnings in a rural English village; a fact that plays a major role in her unhappiness throughout the story. After she marries into a more “proper” existence, Sophy and her new husband, a preacher twenty years her elder, are socially forced to relocate because they had committed “social suicide”(49) by combining two distinct classes. Here we can see a clear division of the classes and the problems that accompany any attempt to bridge the ‘gap’ between them, no matter how justified the case may be.
As the story continues we are presented with a number of other instances where Sophy is blatantly disrespected and underestimated as a human being because of her initial social standing. When her husband dies he makes sure to leave nothing for her because of her “inexperience” with economical matters. By safeguarding all his possessions with trustees, preplanning their son’s upper-class education, and leaving her nothing but an inner-city villa to live out her lowly existence in, Sophy’s husband clearly displays the apparent social prejudices that existed in nineteenth century England. He felt that a woman of her modest beginnings, despite exhibiting loyal service and affection throughout the years, could never handle such responsibility to properly head a “proper” household.
The final instance of Hardy’s social critique comes in the form of Sophy’s son who believes himself to be a gentleman because of his father’s clerical position. From the story’s commencement we find him correcting his mother’s grammar and in a way, out-casting her because of her past. When he tells her that he is ashamed of her for wanting to remarry a man from her lower-class past it is evident that strong social prejudices existed during this time period. For a son to keep his own mother from acting on the only thing that would make her happy proved that...