'The Ruined Maid' by Thomas Hardy
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"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?"--
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.
--"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"--
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.
--"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon,' and 'theäs oon,' and 't'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!"--
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.
--"Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!"--
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.
--"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!"--
"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.
"--I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!"--
"My dear--a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Ruined Maid: A Critique
Thomas Hardy is one of the most celebrated poets and novelists of the Victorian era. His works are known for their poignant portrayal of human emotions, and his poetry often deals with themes of loss, love, and betrayal. One of his most famous poems, The Ruined Maid, is a satirical piece that exposes the double standards of Victorian society regarding women's sexuality. In this critique, I will analyze The Ruined Maid and explore its themes, literary devices, and cultural significance.
The Ruined Maid was first published in 1901 in a collection of Hardy's poetry titled Wessex Poems. The poem narrates a conversation between two women, one of whom is a former country girl who has become a city prostitute. The other woman is her former friend, who is shocked by the change in her appearance and lifestyle. The poem is notable for its use of irony and satire to expose the hypocrisy of Victorian society, which condemned women for their sexual behavior but also objectified them.
The Ruined Maid is a dialogue between two women who meet after a long time. The first woman, who has become a prostitute, is described as having a fashionable appearance, wearing expensive clothes and jewelry. The second woman, who is still a country girl, is shocked by the transformation of her friend and expresses her disapproval. The two women engage in a conversation that reveals the contrast between their lifestyles and the societal expectations that have influenced them.
The poem's title, The Ruined Maid, suggests that the woman who has become a prostitute is no longer innocent or pure. However, the poem quickly undermines this assumption by depicting her as confident, self-assured, and proud of her new lifestyle. She speaks in a refined, almost aristocratic tone, using words like "indeed" and "pray" that suggest education and sophistication. This contrast between her appearance and her language creates a sense of irony that the poem exploits to great effect.
The conversation between the two women reveals the societal pressure that has influenced their choices. The country girl expresses her disapproval of her friend's lifestyle, saying that "Thy face is bold, thy hands are cold, / And thou must have thy daily gold." This line suggests that the prostitute is driven by the need for money, which is a common motif in Victorian literature. However, the prostitute responds with a list of her possessions, including a "rubber-necked gilt-edged carriage," a "diamond ring," and a "silver and ermine fan." These possessions suggest that the prostitute is not driven by poverty but rather by a desire for material wealth and status.
The conversation between the two women also highlights the double standards of Victorian society regarding women's sexuality. The country girl accuses her friend of being "ruined," suggesting that her sexual behavior has destroyed her reputation and her future prospects. However, the prostitute responds by saying that she is "better off by far." This line suggests that the prostitute believes that her lifestyle is preferable to that of the country girl, who is still bound by the strict moral codes of Victorian society. The poem suggests that women who transgress these codes are not necessarily "ruined" but rather have the potential to gain power and autonomy.
The Ruined Maid also makes use of a number of literary devices to enhance its themes and its emotional impact. The poem's use of irony is particularly effective, as it creates a sense of distance between the two women that underscores their different perspectives. The poem's use of repetition, particularly in the prostitute's list of possessions, creates a sense of rhythm that adds to the poem's musicality. The poem's use of dialogue, with its naturalistic tone, creates a sense of immediacy and realism that draws the reader into the conversation.
The Ruined Maid is significant for its portrayal of Victorian society's attitudes towards women's sexuality. The poem exposes the double standards that governed women's behavior, condemning them for their sexual transgressions while also objectifying them for their beauty and charm. The poem suggests that women who defied these codes had the potential to gain power and autonomy, but also suggests that this freedom came at a great cost.
The poem's themes continue to resonate in contemporary society, where women still face pressure to conform to strict moral codes regarding their sexuality. The poem's use of irony and satire, along with its poignant portrayal of female friendship, make it a timeless work of literature that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
The Ruined Maid is a masterful work of poetry that exposes the double standards of Victorian society regarding women's sexuality. The poem's use of irony, dialogue, and literary devices creates a sense of realism and immediacy that draws the reader into the conversation between the two women. The poem's themes continue to resonate in contemporary society, where women still face pressure to conform to strict moral codes regarding their sexuality. The Ruined Maid is a timeless work of literature that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Ruined Maid: A Masterpiece by Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, is known for his profound and thought-provoking works. Among his many masterpieces, The Ruined Maid stands out as a remarkable piece of poetry that captures the essence of the Victorian society's moral and social values. The poem is a conversation between two women, one of whom has become a prostitute, and the other, who is still a maid. The poem is a commentary on the double standards of the Victorian society, where women were judged based on their virtue and chastity. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and historical context.
The poem begins with the maid's surprise at seeing her friend, who has become a prostitute. The maid is shocked to see her friend's transformation, and she expresses her surprise by saying, "O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!" The use of the word "crown" here is significant, as it suggests that the maid sees her friend's transformation as a kind of achievement or success. However, the use of the word "everything" also suggests that the maid is aware of the societal stigma attached to prostitution, and she is surprised that her friend has chosen this path.
The prostitute, on the other hand, is proud of her new status and flaunts her wealth and beauty. She responds to the maid's surprise by saying, "And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?" The use of the word "prosperity" here is significant, as it suggests that the prostitute sees her wealth and beauty as a sign of success. However, the use of the word "fair" also suggests that the prostitute is aware of the societal expectation of beauty and charm in women.
The conversation between the two women continues, with the prostitute describing her luxurious lifestyle and the maid expressing her envy. The prostitute tells the maid that she has been to London and has met many wealthy men who have showered her with gifts. She also tells the maid that she has a coach and a house, and she can afford to buy expensive clothes and jewelry. The maid, who is still living a modest life, expresses her envy by saying, "Lord! what a difference in people's ways!"
The poem's central theme is the double standards of the Victorian society, where women were judged based on their virtue and chastity. The prostitute, who has lost her virtue, is now living a luxurious life, while the maid, who is still virtuous, is living a modest life. The poem highlights the societal expectation of women to be chaste and pure, and the consequences of not meeting these expectations. The prostitute has been ostracized by society, but she has also gained wealth and status. The maid, on the other hand, is still respected by society, but she is also envious of her friend's lifestyle.
The poem also explores the theme of class and social mobility. The prostitute has moved up the social ladder by becoming a prostitute, while the maid is still stuck in her social class. The prostitute's wealth and status have allowed her to move up the social ladder, while the maid's lack of wealth and status have kept her in her social class. The poem highlights the societal expectation of women to marry well and move up the social ladder, and the consequences of not meeting these expectations.
The poem's language and literary devices are also significant. The use of the word "ruined" in the title of the poem is significant, as it suggests that the prostitute has lost her virtue and is now considered "ruined" by society. The use of the word "maid" to describe the other woman is also significant, as it suggests that she is still pure and chaste. The use of dialogue in the poem is also significant, as it allows the reader to hear the voices of the two women and understand their perspectives.
The poem's historical context is also significant. The Victorian era was a time of strict moral and social values, where women were expected to be chaste and pure. Prostitution was considered a sin and a crime, and women who engaged in it were ostracized by society. The poem reflects the societal attitudes towards prostitution and the double standards that existed in the Victorian society.
In conclusion, The Ruined Maid is a remarkable piece of poetry that captures the essence of the Victorian society's moral and social values. The poem explores the themes of double standards, class, and social mobility, and uses language and literary devices to convey its message. The poem's historical context is also significant, as it reflects the societal attitudes towards prostitution and the double standards that existed in the Victorian society. Thomas Hardy's masterpiece is a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.
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