The Ruined Maid File - the Redhill Academy

The Ruined Maid
Read the poem…
Things you should know…
• This poem gives a voice to two ordinary
• ‘Melia is shortened from Amelia
• ‘Melia is an ironic pun on the Latin word
‘melior’ which means better
• The poem is made up of six quatrains (four
lined stanzas) – all, except the last, are
organised in the same way
You need to know this…
• The poem is about ‘ruin’ and is actually about
prostitution. In Victorian England, people
were very uptight and would not speak freely
about sex although it is estimated that about
20% of women were actually prostitutes or a
married man’s mistress. It is unclear whether
‘Melia is a prostitute or a mistress.
Stanza one
this phrase means – this is
better than anything else
The first girl (whose name we
never learn) lives and works
in the countryside – she
addresses her friend in the
first three lines
"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?""O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.
This stanza establishes
that ‘Melia has changed
since they last met – her
change of clothes here
suggests she has improved
her situation.
In the final line of each
stanza, ‘Melia responds –
note how she always uses a
word that has something to
do with ‘ruin’
Prosperi-ty = success – Hardy (the
poet) has used a hyphen to show
how the friend pronounces the
word – we are forced to
emphasise the last syllable which
highlights the rhyme in the poem
Stanza Two
This means – removing
weeds (docks) with a
short knife (spud)
-"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.
This stanza gives us detail
about the life ‘Melia used
to live in the countryside.
The women had no shoes
or socks and were paid to
dig up potatoes
Now we learn that ‘Melia has jewellery
and feathers in her hat which show
she now has more money and
Stanza Three
Thee and thou mean
-"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon,' and 'theas oon,' and 't'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!""Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.
Thik oon = that
Theas oon = this one
T’other = the other
‘ee = he
This stanza tells us that ‘Melia has changed the way
she speaks. When she lived in the fields she spoke
in a dialect. This shows us how her life has changed
for the better (melior)
Stanza Four
This simile shows us how hard life was in the
countryside. He hands were like animals’ –
possibly dirty and rough
-"Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!""We never do work when we're ruined," said she.
However, now ‘Melia has
softer skin and her hands
are no longer roughened by
These words suggest that
‘Melia’s face used to be
‘blue’ possibly from the
cold but also because she
was sad. Bleak suggests she
had a gloomy look
Stanza Five
Plagued by evil spirits
Sock = to take a short intake of
-"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!""True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.
Clearly ‘Melia is much happier
now – ‘Melia used to talk
about her life using the
metaphor ‘hag-ridden dream’
and would ‘huff and puff’ and
complain about it.
Now ‘Melia seems happy - she says she
feels ‘pretty lively’ which could suggest
she is full of life and happy.
Stanza Six
The first girl says she wished she had the
things ‘Melia had. In this stanza ‘Melia
has a two line response.
"-I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!""My dear--a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.
‘Melia points out to her friend that she can’t
have the same life as her because she is not
ruined. The word ‘ain’t’ shows us that
‘Melia has not become ‘polished’ or posh
like her friend thinks – this word shows her
old dialect
To be ruined in Victorian Britain
• You have lost your virginity before marriage.
• ‘Melia will no longer be able to get married in
a respectable way.
• The irony is that despite being ‘ruined’ she is
actually living a better life than she did as a
farm labourer
Hardy is showing…
• That he didn’t agree with the class system of his day.
• ‘Melia has no other way to be ‘better off’ than to sell
her body.
• In Victorian society, women were not allowed to
‘better’ themselves – the were in subservient positions
• Women had no education and couldn’t work in a
profession like men could
• Women’s only choice to make more money was to sell
• Women had a limited choice – they could either be
morally ruined or they would have to be financially and
physically ruined by farmwork
Further points…
• The title of the poem does not say which maid
is ruined – they both are in a sense
• The tone of the poem is light hearted – it is a
casual conversation between friends
• The first speaker, does not seem to
understand the true nature of ‘Melia
• ‘Melia does not seem to want to reveal her
true circumstances the her friend
This poem…
• Expresses sympathy for the situation working
class Victorian women were in
• Attacks Victorian attitudes to class and sex
• Reveals the hypocrisy at the heart or
respectable society (hypocrisy = claiming to
have moral beliefs but acting in a way that
says otherwise)

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