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The Ruined Maid Summary & Analysis
by Thomas Hardy

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"The Ruined Maid" is Thomas Hardy's bitterly funny critique of Victorian sexual hypocrisy, written in 1866. The poem's speakers are a pair of former neighbors who find themselves in very different circumstances: there's Amelia, who has been "ruined" by becoming a rich man's mistress and now lives a life of luxury in the city, and her unnamed friend, who still toils in the poverty of their rural hometown. Being "ruined," the poem suggests, is (ironically) a big improvement on a life of impoverished misery. But Victorian double-standards about women's sexuality means that Amelia's freedom comes at a cost: she may be wealthier and classier now, but she's forever excluded from respectable society, and reliant for her position on a man whom society lets off scot-free for his part in this ruination.

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