Both Hardy’s short stories, ‘The Son’s Veto’ and ‘The Melancholy Hussar’ follow the tales of Sophy and Phyllis, two young women succumbing to the social conformities of their time and their seemingly predetermined fates. Throughout the 19th Century, a rigid class structure - defined by one’s possessions, upbringing, wealth, parentage and education - totally dominated society. With regard to Sophy and Phyllis in ‘The Son’s Veto’ and ‘The Melancholy Hussar’, it is these social constraints that ultimately impact the choices that they make, hindering their lives in one way or another and leading to their eventual unhappiness; they are prevented from following their hearts desires. Hardy often shows his sensitivity to social rank and privilege in his stories, explicitly making clear his views by critiquing the societal pressures that ensure such strict conformities. As a son of a stonemason and a servant, Hardy’s acute consciousness of his humble class origins and modest education remains apparent in his writing. Particularly in these short stories, he uses the detrimental quality of social pressures to add to the sympathy created for Sophy and Phyllis, who both find love with those that are considered ‘socially unacceptable’ and suffer as a result of this.
Hardy opens the stories effectively, setting up the theme of the pressures of conformity straight away. ‘The Son’s Veto’ begins with “To the eyes of a man viewing it from behind, the nut-brown hair was a wonder and a mystery” which already shows the scrutiny of society upon the story’s protagonist, Sophy, who, merely attending an outdoor concert, is oblivious to it. Through the introduction of Sophy, Hardy sets up a general tone and narrative from an on-lookers point of view, which represents how society constantly monitors people. This is continued with phrases such as “by a turn of the head, at length revealed herself, she was