Study Guide

The Ruined Maid Stanza 6

By Thomas Hardy

Stanza 6

Lines 21-22

-"I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town"-

  • As with all of the previous stanzas, the poem's final stanza opens with the other woman (our speaker) yet again talking to 'Melia.
  • After a poem full of observations and comments about 'Melia's outfit, we learn a little bit about why the other girl kept talking about all that stuff.
  • She has noticed all of Melia's fancy clothes and what not, and wishes that she had feathers, a nice gown, and a great-looking face.
  • She also wishes she could "strut" about town, just like 'Melia.
  • "Strut" is an interesting word. It describes a way of walking, that's for sure. Sometimes it just means to walk with swagger, or to walk proudly. Occasionally, however, "strut" has kind of a negative sense—sometimes we say somebody is "strutting" and we mean they're walking almost arrogantly. (By the way, this reminds us of an old Kiss song from the '70s called "Strutter.")
  • Either way, 'Melia's friend is quite envious. 
  • Now let's see what 'Melia has to say in response…

Lines 23-24

"My dear - raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.

  • 'Melia has the last word in this poem.
  • In response to her friend's admission that she wishes she had all the nice things 'Melia has, 'Melia says that her friend can't really "expect" to have everything 'Melia does.
  • This is because she (the friend) is a "raw country girl" and isn't "ruined."
  • As with earlier in this poem, 'Melia again highlights the difference between her ruined condition and her friend's. 'Melia is "polished"—elegant, classy, well-dressed. Her friend, on the other hand, is "raw," a metaphor for the fact that she's dirty, rough ("blue and bleak"), and part of a different (and lower) social class than 'Melia.
  • It's hard to read the tone of 'Melia's comment here, but it sure doesn't seem very good. It seems kind of stand-off-ish, rude, snobby, almost as if 'Melia were saying, "Ha, well sorry my friend, you ain't ruined, so you might as well stop getting your hopes up." Some friend, eh?
  • The irony of 'Melia's comments, though, is two-fold.
  • Firstly, 'Melia must be "ruined"—stained socially for her sexual behavior—before she can enjoy the kind of luxuries that the speaker envies. In other words, she can't reach the sky unless she's in the (social) gutter.
  • At the same time, another irony comes with that word "ain't." 
  • 'Melia claims to be all sophisticated and elegant, you will recall. And yet, despite all her fancy clothes and talking down to her friend, she still uses the word "ain't." 
  • There's nothing elegant or formal about that word whatsoever. Seriously, do you ever remember your mother or father telling you not to say that word? Can you imagine what would happen if you used "ain't" in an essay?
  • Okay we get it, so why does 'Melia use that word?
  • Well, at heart 'Melia is still herself kind of a "raw country girl"—at least a little bit.
  • She's tried to move up in the world, and she's been ruined, but she hasn't been able to eliminate completely that part of her past. This is a classic example of the whole can't-erase-your-past philosophy. 
  • Pretty much everything about 'Melia has changed and, yet, some things about her will never totally change. 
  • And yet this poem seems to be hoping that things do change. By poking fun at the absurdity of situation, Hardy's looking to loosen up Victorian attitudes about "fallen" women like our 'Melia.

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