The Ruined Maid Analysis Essay

Words: 1872
Pages: 8

Emily Egbert
Dr. Karen C. Holt
ENG 333
Literary Analysis: “The Ruined Maid”
Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Ruined Maid” introduces its reader to the harsh reality of lower class Victorian Women. Critical scrutiny through a feminist lens helps widen the scope of understanding to reveal beyond the satirical irony of the writing and bring to light the deep rooted social issue of Victorian England’s paralyzing poverty and its effects on women. In Critical Theory Today feminist criticism is explained as, "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women" (Tyson). “The Ruined Maid” clearly challenges
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The town’s woman, ‘Melia, is finely dressed and has the appearance of being well off. ‘Melia’s response to the country woman is, “"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.” (4) The word “ruined” during the Victorian Era was the politically correct way of saying that she had chosen a life of prostitution (Walkowitz). Her naïve friend continues to be fixated on the fineness of the woman and compares her new found luxuries to her former lifestyle. “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks/Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks” (5-6). Hardy is eloquently leading his audience to examine the uncomfortable reality that these two women represented all women in Victorian England’s lower class. When a woman was born into the low station of life she had two options. She could spend her days in the field performing backbreaking work or she could deny the convention moral codes of the times and “ruin” herself. Each woman is condemned to life of demeaning labor, one in the fields and one in the streets. The first comparison made between the women is in their dress. The country woman’s surprise to her new apparel shows how differently the two women live. “You left us in tatters, without shoes or sock/And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” (6-7). The country woman is still living the life ‘Melia has left behind and is still dressed in the “tatters” (5). The next comparison is