In "The Ruined Maid," where does this dialogue take place? Who are the two speakers?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Hardy's "The Ruined Maid" is written in the form of a dramatic dialogue between two young women who have known each other meet in town, Melia and an unnamed young woman. Oddly this poem has a meter of three dactyl feet followed by an iamb--a rhythm not unlike the hurried conversation of a "ruined" woman rather than the normal conversational tone of iambic pentameter, such is usually used.

Dressed well and appearing prosperous, Melia greets the poor maiden with the paradoxical answer "O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" And, in fact, the remainder of the poem continues a pun on the word "ruined." For, while Melia is ruined spiritually, the poor maiden is ruined in a more physical sense as Melia left her and others "in tatters." She envies Melia her easier life, but Melia tells her that there is a price to pay for such a life, 

— "I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!" —
"My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.
In either sense both young women suffer losses and are victims of their societies. Thus, Hardy comments satirically upon his Victorian Age that in its rectitude of judgment affords so many such limited existences, and then condemns the "ruined maid" like Malia who chooses her immorial life over the physical ruin of poverty. 

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