Thomas Hardy's the Ruined Maid

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The Ruined Maid
Denying the harsh moral codes set upon you can at times improve your material circumstances; however it can reduce you to a situation lower than poverty. Hardy’s dramatic dialogue “The Ruined Maid” attempts to portray the injustices and ironies of Victorian morality. Hardy is able to achieve this through his elaborate control over language.

The class distinctions and moral codes placed upon women in the Victorian era have a large degree of irony. In the first stanza Hardy introduces two women: an unnamed, impoverished farm maid and a relatively wealthy “ruined” woman. The fact that the farm maid is unnamed shows her relatively insignificant life in comparison to the “ruined” woman who is named. The “ruined” woman (‘Melia) is said to have acquired “fair garments”, illustrating her affluence as the adjective “fair” suggests her clothes were of great beauty. The farm maid also wonders how ‘Melia has come across “such prosperi-ty” emphasising her newfound wealth. ‘Melia states that she has acquired this wealth as she has “been ruined”. By crossing the Victorian morality line and selling herself she has been rewarded instead of being looked down upon. In the second stanza Hardy contrasts the two women’s lifestyles to illustrate their vast differences. Hardy uses negative diction such as the noun “tatters” to describe the poverty-stricken woman clothing which contrasts to the description of the wealthier woman in the first stanza. Hardy also contrasts this in the second stanza where Hardy uses positive diction with vibrant connotations such as “gay bracelets” and “bright feathers” to again describe the “ruined” woman’s clothing. The use of juxtaposition between the poverty of one woman and the relative wealth of ‘Melia emphasises their class differences. The “ruined” woman, obviously gaining from her denial of normal moral codes, states “that’s how we dress when we are ruined”. This illustrates that all women in her profession wear wealthy...
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