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The Ruined Maid ~ Thomas Hardy. By Olivia Scurr , Esme Flamson, Rebecca Pauli and Sarah Lawson. The Title : The Ruined Maid. Ruined suggests that the Maid is ‘sexually impure,

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the ruined maid thomas hardy

The Ruined Maid ~ Thomas Hardy

By Olivia Scurr, Esme Flamson, Rebecca Pauli and Sarah Lawson

the title the ruined maid
The Title : The Ruined Maid

Ruined suggests that the Maid is ‘sexually impure,

If you turn ‘Maid’ into ‘Maiden,’ this could interpret the virginal sense which may lead us to think that this ‘Maid’ isn’t married and has pre-marital sex because she is sexually impure and possibly a ‘Maiden.’ This could then lead to interpreting that the ‘Maid’ could be a prostitute.

the first stanza
The first Stanza :

‘ O ‘Melia, my dear.’ This is a greeting which implies that there is intimacy between the speaker and the Maid, but later on the poem reveals that there is little affection between the two characters.

The first speaker dominatesthe poem.

The Maid didn’t work in the town when they used to know each other, does she have a new job?

stanza 2
Stanza 2

'Melia, when she was at the farm, used to have only the most basic clothing and now she's dressed very well and even has jewellery.

Rhyming Couplets demonstrate the happiness of the first speaker

The images of hardship reflect the poverty in Victorian England

Repetition of we, emphasises the two speakers

stanza 3
Stanza 3

The newer introduced dialect implies the speaker adopts air and graces

Dialect contrasts with the more eloquent language of the 3rd line in the stanza, almost as if its sarcastic

Ruin, is repeated in various forms which intensifies the fact that it is ironic

stanza 4
Stanza 4

Both women are made by society into witches; farm workers (appearance), prostitutes (evil)

The hyphenation in ‘la-dy’ may reflect the pomposity of the first speaker. It also sets up a rhyme which is resisted by the second, creating tension.

last stanza
Last Stanza

Hardy invites the reader to consider whether the farm or being a prostitute is a harder job / lifestyle.

The repetition of different forms of ruin are used once in every stanza

poem interpretation
Poem interpretation

A very Victorian, almost gothic, summary of how glamour, riches and fun can also come with a hypocritical veneer of deviousness, deception and exploitation of others. The woman has sold her innocence for a life of expensive clothes and glamour appears to be non the happier for having done so, even though she has theoretically sold her soul to the devil


Where would 'Melia have been better off? On the farm in "tatters", with hands like "paws", a "face blue and bleak" and with a "home-life a hag-ridden dream" but with her honour still intact? Or as a woman who is much more financially comfortable, better fed and clothed but working as a prostitute?


This poem is a 'dramatic dialogue' - a conversation between two people which tells a story and reveals things about both characters.


It is set out as six, four-line stanzas (a four-line stanza is also known as a 'quatrain') with a regular 'aabb' rhyme scheme. The 'bb' rhyme (lines 3-4 in each stanza) is always the same as the last word in each stanza is "she".


The regular rhythm and rhyme help make it sound like a light, playful ditty, almost nursery rhyme in quality. There is a happy, musical lilt in lines three and four of each stanza as Hardy emphasises the 'ee' sound very clearly. This adds significantly to the irony when we realise the main character is a prostitute.


In most of the stanzas, the language and imagery used in the first part is then contrasted by that which follows it, eg:

'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.

A pattern arises - the naïve farm worker reminds 'Melia (and informs the reader) how things used to be for her and then comments on how much better things are now.


Another, even more obvious pattern of language is in the last line of each stanza, 'Melia tells her friend that she's "ruined". Whilst her friend is praising her, 'Melia constantly reminds her that although on the face of it she is doing well, it has come at a massive, personal cost to her and in some ways, she is worse off than her friend. The fact she is now a prostitute, however well she might look, is always present and inescapable.


The role of women in society: Is this the only way a lowly maid could achieve independence in Victorian Britain? Is the farm worker right to admire 'Melia? Is 'Melia a victim or in control of her own destiny?

Money isn't everything: The farm worker admires 'Melia's new found wealth (which is probably not much anyway, just more than it used to be) but 'Melia herself knows that money isn’t everything. The price she has had to pay outweighs the material wealth.

Morals: The poem throws up a lot of questions about 'right' and 'wrong'. Hardy used to condemn those men who would publicly criticise prostitutes whilst being their customers in private.