The theme of Thomas Hardy's "The Ruined Maid" is the tragedy of young women entering the world of prostitution and the appearance of their lifestyles to others. The stories of two girls are presented in "The Ruined Maid."
Some believe that approximately 20 percent of teenage girls were prostitutes in the late 1800s. "The Ruined Maid" references two such young women. The first young woman looks at the character Melia and is enamored of her glamorous trappings, her refinement and her life. She has no idea that she is admiring the life of a prostitute. Melia herself brags about being a fine lady who does not have to work for a living.