The ruined maid
The topic of the ruined maid is a dialogue conversation between two women who have met on the off chance in town, one of which has been ruined. Throughout the poem the narrator praises the ruined maid on her appearance and how her life has seemed to improve since leaving the farm. Thomas hardy used the repetition of ‘ruined said she’ at the end of each stanza to emphasise although the maids life has improved in so many ways she is now ruined. In the 1800s to be a prostitute was seriously frowned upon so although the ruined maid’s life has improved, there will always be a price to pay, this woman will never marry or have children and if she did they would be born fatherless, yet another thing frowned upon in the 1800s. The construction of the ruined maid is set out in six four line stanzas, with regular rhyme in each following an aabb pattern.
The idea runs the same throughout the poem in the first two lines the narrator always refers to the ruined maids past lastly complementing how nice she looks or how well she seems to be doing, in return the ruined maid always agrees while reminding her in the last words she is now ruined, damaged goods, except for in the last stanza the narrator finds herself wishing she too could have this life reminded by the ruined maid that she ‘can’t expect that she’s not ruined’. In each stanza uses imagery to reflect on past and present such as ‘you left us in tatters, without shoes or socks’ this can be seen as imagery for poverty in the 1800s, contrasted with the present ‘and now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!’ emphasising just how much her life has changed she can now have small luxury’s and nice things, there is also the assonance of the a in gay bracelets Thomas Hardy uses alliteration throughout the first two lines in each stanza when referring to the ruined maid’s past; ‘Melia my dear/thee and thou/blue and bleak’.
There is also a punctuation mark in each stanza to emphasise just how much the maid’s life seems to have changed to the narrator in the quote ‘bright feathers three!’ the exclamation mark emphasises the dramatic change between past and present, going from no shoes or socks to bracelets and feathers in her hat a mere luxury for the women of this time.
The attitudes of the narrator and the ruined maid totally opposite, the narrator is almost naive towards what the ruined maid is telling her. It’s as if she doesn’t understand what ruined means, she is just looking at the materialistic side of things. Whereas the ruined maid knows her life is easier now but she also has serious consequences to pay for the life she is living, as I said before life in the 1800s wasn’t easy but prostitution was the lowest of the low in the social structure. My opinion on the ruined maid is a sad feeling towards both the narrator and the ruined maid.
The narrator because she is almost admiring what this woman has achieved, the poem also leaves us with a sense this naive girl is intrigued into following the maids footsteps. Who wouldn’t want his materialistic life in such hard times? I also pity the maid, through hardship she has had to make the decision to turn to prostitution, knowing the effect it will have on her later in life, she can never marry or have children because she is bottom of the list in the social structure, no man will ever look at her now or want to be with her.