As is always the case when things just aren't right, somebody, or some people, eventually start to grumble about it and do their part to make a change. Well, Thomas Hardy was one such dude. "The Ruined Maid" doesn't just matter because it is a little window into a very strange period in history. No, no, no. It matters because it shows us there were feminist grumblings even 100 years ago. Now Hardy wasn't feminist per se, but in this poem, as in his novels, he implies that Victorian women were held to an unfair, impossible standard. A woman should be considered "ruined" and treated accordingly just because she had sex, just because she didn't want to be stuck on some dirty farm digging up weeds and potatoes anymore? Hardy basically shuts that kind of backwards thinking down with this poem.
This is where our pal and his famous little poem "The Ruined Maid" come in. On the one hand, if you thought things were bad in the fifties, Hardy's poem shows you that it was even worse in the late 1800s. Then, if you happened to be a woman and you decided that you didn't want to wait until marriage to have sex, well kiss social respectability good-bye. Yep, it didn't matter if you made a mistake just one night—once you crossed that bridge, that was it. The charming little term the Victorians used for these types of women was "ruined" (our contemporary version is "damaged goods").
"The Ruined Maid," written in 1866 but not published until 1901, is one of Hardy's most sophisticated critiques of Victorian sexuality. The poem, which is a dialogue between a ruined woman and her un-ruined friend, questions just what exactly it means for a woman to be ruined. The "ruined maid," for example, is clearly enjoying a more prosperous life as a result of her ruin (she has nicer clothes and speaks better, for example). She is no longer forced to do the demeaning farm labor that her companion still does, which begs the question of who is actually "ruined" (the woman who slaves away in the fields, or the one who walks the streets displaying her nice skin and fancy gown?).
Since "The Ruined Maid" is about two women meeting for the first time in a strange part of town, their dialogue includes discussion of the past in order for the reader to understand the present. This poem has a parallel in which the first part of the stanza discusses Amelia's past while the second part of the stanza discusses her present. Hardy uses imagery to help the reader read between the lines. The unknown speaker in the poem illustrates how Amelia's life is before by reminding her of how things had looked so long ago, and the reader can understand how things are now because of the imagery of the jewels and fine clothing.
"The Ruined Maid” By Thomas Hardy - College Essays
The poem depicts a young country girl who has become a rich man's mistress to escape her own poverty, and does not seem to regret her decision. Her position is contrasted with that of her old friend who is still a respectable but poor country farm worker, and who seems to envy Amelia. The poem offers an ironic comment on the lives of working class women. Hardy implies the only way a woman can obtain independence in this society is by selling herself. The ruined maid acts as an archetype and also an image that relates to social realities which are important during the Victorian Era. Because Amelia is a prostitute and therefore she must be 'ruined', most women should not envy her lifestyle. But in Hardy's satirical poem, it seems obvious that the unnamed speaker is envious of Amelia because of the beautiful clothes Amelia is wearing.
The Ruined Maid – Thomas Hardy + Analysis | GCSE …
"The Ruined Maid" is a dialogue between two women who bump into each other in the street. The first to speak is an unnamed woman, who comments on 'Melia's (short for Amelia's) new clothes and look (she seems cleaner, more elegant, etc.). As the poem continues, the woman comments on the way 'Melia used to look (she had no shoes when she left the farm where the two worked together, she was in "tatters"). Each time the woman comments on something, 'Melia responds with a short, semi-snobby retort, usually to the effect of "Well, I'm ruined and this is what I get." By the end, the other woman admits that she too wishes she had all the nice things 'Melia does, to which 'Melia basically says, "You're a raw country girl and you ain't ruined—so too bad."
"The Ruined Maid" is a tall satirical poem by Thomas Hardy
"The Ruined Maid" is a satire and full of intended irony. Nevertheless, some critics argue that the poem is more serious than one might think due to what was going on in Hardy's life at the time. He was young and did not have his life figured out quite yet, nor did he have much of a love life.