The Deserted Village Questions and Answers
by Oliver Goldsmith

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Why did the village become unfit for habitation?

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The village has been desolated by one man's greed, his avarice encouraged and facilitated by a change in the law relating to land ownership. At the time the poem was written, rural England was undergoing something of an economic and social transformation. Under the legal process known as enclosure plots of what had been common land were consolidated into larger farms. Once this process was complete, wealthy land owners were able to enjoy sole right to this property, which was no longer available to the village community.

In "The Deserted Village," a man of "wealth and pride" has done very well out of this new system of land ownership. But the same can't be said of the poor villagers. Without communal land from which to eke out a living many of them have had to flee abroad to "distant climes." As such, the village stands desolate. What had been a thriving community has been destroyed forever by a legally-sanctioned land grab.

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