Prostitution In Literature Essay

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Prostitution has long been present in society for easily thousands of years, even garnering it the title of the world’s oldest profession; throughout the course of time and different cultures, prostitution has gained many various stigmas and traditional thoughts it is associated with. As with many other subjects ingrained in cultures, prostitution is widely present in literature. Two poems come to mind at the mention of prostitution and literature. Jonathan Swift’s poem, “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed”, written in 1734, and Thomas Hardy’s poem written in 1857, “The Ruined Maid”, both tell the tale of a female prostitute, though in strikingly different lights. The impoverished and diseased Corinna from Swift’s poem is nearly the exact…show more content…
At the time, English society was much more accepting of prostitution than it was generally in later periods, often given leniency in legal prosecution and regarded fairly well by the urban poor (Robinson). The concept of prostitution was widley regarded as a necessary part of society due in part to the economic struggles of the urban poor, which was what social class the majority of prostitutes were from (Robinson). This more positive standpoint does not, however, give much insight into the lives of prostitutes. The character of Corinna, however, does. Corinna is impoverished, living on the fourth floor of her building and not having enough money to buy dinner, and she goes through “Anguish, Toil, and Pain” every morning to redress herself to fit her job as a prostitute (Swift, 69). In addition to squalid living conditions, Corinna also suffers from an unnamed sexually transmitted disease that gives her “running sores” (Swift, 30). The way Corinna’s life is described makes her entire existence to be one worthy of pity and one marked by utter awfulness. She is obviously suffering greatly because of her career as a prostitute. Corinna’s situation, despite the exaggeration and bawdy descriptions meant to model her grotesquely, bears truth to the conditions of some prostitutes in Georgian London. Sexually transmitted diseases were rampant in the…show more content…
To his surprise, Acton found that most prostitutes were “a woman who, whether sound or diseased, is generally pretty and elegant” (53). Much like ‘Melia, many prostitutes did not seem to be on the path to total failure. Acton describes that when comparing the work of a prostitute at 35 years old to her sister of the same age, it is more likely that the sister is the one of the pair who has suffered much more from her line of work as a “toiling slave” in a factory (63). Throughout their careers as a prostitute, many of the prostitutes had also become more educated, as they “ha[ve] obtained a knowledge of the world most probably above the situation [they] w[ere] born in” (Acton, 64). This, too, applies to ‘Melia, as her former coworker remarks that her “talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!” (Hardy, 11). ‘Melia’s character sets forth the powerful statement that not every stereotype is the entire truth of the

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