The Ruined Maid by Thomas Hardy is about a woman who used to live a casual, normal life. She was raised on a farm and lived a poor lifestyle before she was “ruined.” The poem describes being ruined as receiving good things and a fabulous lifestyle. I took this poem in relation to the last reading by William Acton on prostitution. The girls are sinners, but at the time period it seemed like the better opportunity. They were beautiful and rich, while other girls from the same social status they came from were poor, overweight, grungy, or had any other “unattractive” look to them. The life of a prostitute was no doubt miserable, sleeping with random men at their pleasure. However; for some women it may have been worth it to get off of the farm or out of the poor lifestyle they once lived.
We related in class that there would be no men who would pay for a non-attractive women prostitute. This is what the poem by Thomas Hardy is implying. The women is beautiful and fashionable now compared to what she used to be. She is “ruined” because she is now treated as an object. She gets her money by sleeping with random men. This is hugely looked down upon in any time period. Women were already disrespected by their society, this act didn’t help the women in any sense. Especially the ones who were acting in this way.
This inversely relates to science in the fact that they didn’t have much of “protection” in these days. There weren’t tests or cures for sexually transmitted diseases or very reliable forms of birth control. This was an easy, fast way for these types of infections to be spread throughout a society. Women may be beautifully dressed and well taken care of, but dealing with these effects would be worse. This would “ruin” them in a sense that no man with any class would want anything to do with them. Not to mention, the men that did want them only wanted them for one thing on one occasion.
These women were “ruined” in a way that they lost their values, morals, purity, self-esteem and health in exchange for a lonely lifestyle of riches.
The artwork assigned with this reading called “The Great Social Evil” by John Leech is a painting drawn about nine years before The Ruined Maid was written by Hardy. The painting is two women, one who is significantly dressed better than the other woman. The other woman is asking her “how long has [she] been gay?” The analysis of the artwork explains that “gay” referred to prostitution, rather than homosexuality or happiness in the Victorian era. The worse off woman looks to be judging the “gay” woman. The prostitute appears to be extremely defensive. Probably because she knows she is being judged, yet it is worth it to her for the riches she receives for her ungodly acts.