Study Guide

The Ruined Maid Man and the Natural World

By Thomas Hardy

Man and the Natural World

-"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks; (5-6)

Farming is tough work. Apparently it's hard to keep one's clothes from getting torn up. When 'Melia left the farm, she had no shoes or socks and her clothes were in "tatters." Hmm… nature does not seem very motherly in this case, that's for sure.

And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"- (7)

'Melia is no longer a slave to the natural world. She is now its master. If before she had to work the land, now she gets to wear it—in the form of feathers.

-"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon' and 'theäs oon' and 't'other'; but now (9-10)

'Melia and her friend clearly have a different relationship to the natural world, and this is made evident here by the different words they use. The other woman outlines the strange dialect spoken in the country for us in these lines.

-"Your hands were like paws then, you face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek, (13-14)

'Melia used to be very close to the natural world, resembling an animal more than a human ("paws") and sporting a face covered with dirt. She is now part of a different social class, further from the natural world than her companion.

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