Thomas Hardy is concerned with prejudice and inequality. The story begins telling us of a young woman called Sophy who was unfortunately in a wheelchair. Nobody really knows anything about her; she was a mystery to people. ‘She was generally believed to be a woman with a story – an innocent one, but a story of some sort or another.’ ‘She was the second wife of the incumbent of a neighbouring parish’. She has one child, a son. Sadly for her, although he is young, he has a far better education than she does. He corrects her; “He have been so comfortable these last few hours that I am sure he cannot of missed us,” she replied “Has, dear mother – not have!” exclaimed the public schoolboy, with an impatient fastidiousness that was almost harsh. “Surely you know that by this time!” His mother hastily adopted this correction and did not resent his making it, or retaliate’. Her own son corrected her. I certainly wouldn’t have tolerated that! Her poor education shines through even brighter when she accepts what her son said,
Sophy’s upbringing took place in North Wessex, near to her native village Gaymead. At the young age of nineteen Sophy was working as a parlour maid For Mr Twycott, in the Parson’s house. The lady of the house had recently died. ‘The Vicar just left a widower was at this time a man about forty years of age, of good family, and childless.’ After the death of his wife, the vicar decided to reduce the size of his household staff. Fortunately for Sophy, she caught his eye: ‘What a kitten-like, flexuous, tender creature she was.’ This was the beginning of a new life for both of them.
The two of them married, but did they know what they were getting in to? ‘Mr Twycott knew perfectly well that he had committed social suicide’. This statement suggests that because Sophy was a parlour maid and Mr Twycott is a vicar, the two of them marrying is a bad thing. Why? It’s due to the order of class. Sophy is ‘lower class,’ where as Mr Twycott is ‘upper class. This would have been frowned upon. It is another example of prejudice.
There are more statements on Sophy’s poor education; ‘but in what is called culture she was less intuitive.’ Her husband tried to help her and teach her ‘but she still held confused ideas on the use of ‘was’ and ‘were’, which did not beget a respect for her among the few acquaintances she made.’ Because Sophy was poorly educated, she does not fit in with the people, or more to the point they won’t accept her. They have a preconceived opinion of her because of the way she speaks. Even her own Son sees her as an embarrassment; ‘and became – in her sons eyes – a mother whose mistakes and origin it was his painful lot as a gentleman to blush for.’
This is all because of inequality within society. Prejudice people separate themselves from others. This is how class, racism, and sexism came to be. The list does go on.
Having read ‘The sons veto’ I can suggest that at the time the story was written, social status was a big issue and had been for quite a while; influenced by different cultures.
Both Harper Lee and Thomas Hardy are clearly concerned with prejudice and inequality. They both concentrate on class and social status and have similar views on the matter. They both convey the point that wealthier people separate themselves from not so wealthy people. They believe they are ‘higher class’ and above others. Both authors have shown in their writing that prejudice and inequality are negative, and have very negative effects and results.
Harper Lee concentrates more on the topic of racism. I believe she feels this to be more important, perhaps it’s due to a personal experience, or events that happened; i.e., slavery in the United States.
Thomas Hardy is more concerned with social status and class. I can suggest that he has experienced, witnessed, or suffered prejudice attitudes towards class.
Courtney from Study Moose
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