The Ruined Maid
The Ruined Maid was written in 1866 and published in 1902. It similarly revealed the injustices of Victorian morality and women’s insecure social position. By playing on the word ‘ruined’, Hardy questions which woman’s reality is the harsher and suggests the irony of class distinctions and moral rectitude. Stanza 1
The speaker of the first three lines is an unnamed farm maid, which doesn’t show the perspective of the main character much like the ‘Clown Punk’. The unnamed speaker reveals the most about the ruined maid, ‘Melia’. It is here that we learn that Melia is dressed well and looks prosperous. In each stanza, Melia speaks the last line by selling herself (just like her profession). In the context of ‘ruined’ it means that she has crossed the Victorian-era morality line by becoming a prostitute. She would be considered soiled and unmarriageable even among men of her own class. Stanza 2
The unnamed farm maid reveals that when Melia left the farm she lacked shoes and socks and was wearing little better than rags. However, Melia could apparently no longer deal with the farm work’s hard labour. Now, she wears jewellery and feathers. Melia confirms that this is the uniform of her new occupation. Stanza 3
While on the farm, Melia spoke with a heavy accent, which the unnamed farm maid mimics. She herself reveals her own accent when she exclaims that Melia’s deportment makes her worthy of the posh set. Ironically, in the stanza’s last line, Melia indicated that she has gained refinement with her loss of conventional dignity. Stanza 4
Melia’s hands and face are described by the nameless farm maid. While on the ‘barton’, Melia’s hands more closely resembled paws, but her tailored gloves now indicate that her hands have grown slim and elegant. They fit as if she had not done any had labour that would broaden knuckles or distort...