‘The withered arm’ and ‘The sons veto’

In the two of Hardy’s short stories which I read, ‘The withered arm’ and ‘The sons veto’ we are shown he holds and portrays a very bias opinion, in which he doesn’t agree at all with the male dominance over women of that time. During the 19th century there was an extremely harsh line which was drawn between those working on the land as farmers and those working in a higher class than them.

The males in the relationship were dominant as husbands and they acted more of the fatherly role towards their wives than a husband’s role, acting as if they always new best and that the female’s opinion doesn’t count. Hardy strongly disagreed to this and did not think like this at all. Throughout ‘The withered arm’ we see how the farmer treats his son and the women with great disrespect and negligence. He abuses Rhodes working class status as he is able to abandon his lover and child, and make everybody blame her for the affair.

And because of this, Rhodes has to spend most of her time in almost solitary confinement as no one except her son will speak to her. The father is so bothered about his status, that he shuts off all links with his son and denies his existence even to know his own wife. ‘One of the neighbourhood. I think that he lives with his mother a mile or two off’. Through denying the existence of his son, the farmer is being unfair to his wife Gertrude, as he hasn’t told her about the affair that he had with Rhoda.

Gertrude also makes a comment about how men only ever go for looks and as soon as they lose their looks they move onto somebody different. ‘Men think so much of personal appearance’. Because of class distinction, Rhoda and Gertrude are never really allowed to socialise together as Rhoda doesn’t rally want to go with Gertrude to see Conjuror Trendle, not only because Gertrude would find out that it was her fault, but also because Rhoda knows it is wrong and that she would get a lot of critism.

I am shown this in the story because when Gertrude asks Rhoda to go with her, Hardy replies to her answer and said ‘The milk woman murmured’. This makes sure we no that she is only a milk woman and of a lower class. Throughout ‘The sons veto’, we are able to see the theme of male dominance a lot clearer, especially when the subject of considering marriage arises. When Sophie is looking after the vicar and he proposes to her she says ‘… she hardly dared refuse a parsonage’.

It is almost impossible for her to refuse because of his status. Because he Is of a higher class, it would be a complete insult for her to say no to him and she would be also throwing a great opportunity away. This is a bit easier to understand when you look at the proposal made by Sam. Sophie rejects his offer after an argument, but Sam is only a gardener of the lower class and cannot offer the security that a woman of that time needed. Nowadays if anything happens to the male, the wife takes overall charge of the family.

Hardy made sure that we knew that in the 1800’s that was not the case. In fact the woman never took charge as long as there was a male in the family. The woman would then become answerable to the eldest son, and he would be the one in control, and makes all of the decisions. In the story, Sophie knows that she would need her son’s approval before she could marry Sam. Yet she knows that he will disapprove, ‘To tell Randolph seemed impossible… could she deny him? When she does ask his, he asks in a very childish and selfish manner.

HE says that he is too bothered about his own reputation to care about his mothers life, ‘It will degrade me inn all the eyes of all the gentlemen of England’. It is through Hardy’s observations that we are able to clearly see the social snobbery and patriarchal dominance. He shows us how men took advantage of women and forced them into marriages were love may not be involved. He also shows the harsh line of class distinction and how it is almost impossible to change the class in which you are brought up into.