Elizabeth Gaskell: Ruth

(2919 words)
  • Josie Billington (University of Liverpool)

Ruth, Mrs Gaskell's second full-length novel, sets out, like Mary Barton before it, deliberately to challenge its middle-class readership to imaginative sympathy with a conventionally unsympathetic character and situation. Ruth is the first novel in nineteenth-century England to take for its heroine a fallen woman. Based on the real-life events experienced by a young unmarried mother whose cause Mrs Gaskell had personally taken up, Ruth tells the story of a girl of respectable parentage, now orphaned and apprenticed to a dressmaker, who is seduced by a young squire, Richard Bellingham. When Bellingham abandons her in the Welsh village where she and her lover have been living, Ruth, pregnant and despairing, is …

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Billington, Josie. "Ruth". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 June 2003
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=2276, accessed 30 June 2015.]