North & South discussion

Ruth > Chapters 31 - the end

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
What are your thoughts on the book? Was it a success for Gaskell? Still relevant, or is it outdated?

message 2: by Trudy (last edited Dec 02, 2015 09:48AM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
In scanning a few of the reviews for Ruth here at Goodreads, I see that some think the character of Ruth is too submissive or just too "good."

Of course, I've heard others complain that Margaret Hale is also just too good. And then there's Molly Gibson...

Does Gaskell write unrealistic characters? I think Gaskell is definitely revealing a standard in these main characters. But I don't think these characters are unrealistic or wimpy just because they don't do what we might expect a modern heroine to do: fight back, feel bitter, and let everyone around them know how they feel/think.

I actually really admire these type of quiet but good heroines. (Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood also come to mind.) Anyone can shoot their mouth off, complain, and be bitter. It takes much more strength - real strength - to fight your own internal demons and go about your life doing what you decide is the most important thing to be doing. And what I see these women choosing to do, even when it is a great strain on them personally, is to make the constant decision to do what they feel is right for others and in love for others.
In that sense, they daily practice a great deal of mental dominion to live their most cherished ideals - which I find extremely admirable.

Most of the men in this story aren't painted in a very admirable light. Mr. Benson and Mr. Farquhar are the honest and good men. Bellingham is like a male version of Fanny Thornton - wholly consumed with himself.
Mr Bradshaw represents the harsh self-righteous judgment that a girl like Ruth would most likely encounter in the society of the day.

And always, I love Gaskell because she forces her readers to look at individuals and makes the case that you can't judge anyone rightly unless you know exactly what they have endured.

Was Ruth truly guilty at all or was she rather taken advantage of? That's another question that should be considered. I'd say she practically didn't have a choice.

message 3: by Samanta (new)

Samanta   (almacubana) | 294 comments I love Gaskell! She had the courage to write about things that were considered taboo at the time.

I do not think Ruth submissive per se, but I do think she put too much strain on herself by believing her "sin" to be so great as to necessitate a life-long penance. When all those people praised her, she didn't acknowledge it. Don't get me wrong, modesty is a virtue in my eyes, but I think her reluctance to accept praise for her actions came more from her conviction that she doesn't deserve praise because of her past sin, than from regular sense of modesty.

I definitely did not expect the ending, although I had various theories when she said goodbye to Jemima, "never to see one another again". The ending is the only thing I have a problem with. Why is it that good people always go first? She left a 12 year old son behind her, and that is never a good thing in my eyes. Nothing justifies that. Leonard was left in good hands, but a mother is a mother.

I was glad that Mr. Bradshaw got to see the light, even if it was too late. Funny how karma can catch up with you. He was so stern and believed himself entitled to cast judgement over other people and withhold forgiveness (as if those things were his to give in the first place, insufferable man!).

To answer your last question, I do not know. Bellingham was older, already knew of the ways of the world and should have know better, but he decided to satisfy his baser instincts. If he really loved her, I wouldn't say anything, but we know he didn't. If I had found myself in Ruth's shoes I might be able to make an opinion, but since I hadn't, I can't.

back to top