Representation of Women in Poetry - Comparative Essay

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How have the composers of the poems you will be discussing constructed their representations of women? Compare and contrast the themes and values represented in your two chosen poems.


The representation of women have changed throughout the course of history. The Ruined Maid composed by Thomas Hardy and I Am Man-made by Susan Wicks both incorporate similar values of the submissive nature of women, yet do not fail to integrate two very different values of female sexuality and male dominance, respectively. With reference to two visual texts, both poems successfully assimilate various literary and visual techniques such as irony, repetition, lighting and tone of voice.

“The Ruined Maid” is a dramatic dialogue composed by English poet Thomas Hardy, to reveal the submissive nature of women in the mid 19th century. The theme is exhibited through a verbal exchange between two characters, Melia and the farm maid. Hardy plays on the word ‘ruined’ and questions which woman’s reality is harsher and suggests the irony of moral rectitude. Hardy’s poem depicts women as weak individuals. Both women have experienced the hardships of poverty, however the protagonist, Melia, steps up to go beyond and seek a better new life. Hardy presents woman as submissive through the indication that the woman is the one who has to lost her dignity and resorts into the last situation a woman would ever dream of, prostitution. Female sexuality has also been exploited in a similar manner. Though she has achieved prosperity and wealth, Melia refers to herself as ‘ruined’. There is a hint of irony in her words, “Some polish is gained with one’s ruin” implying that although she has achieved a high status in society, it is not all what it seems to be. In this context, the term ‘ruin’ refers to the decay in morals and the resort to prostitution. Melia has given up her virginity, a precious gift, for a better life in order survive in society. Furthermore, these concepts are consolidated in image...
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