In many ways, Ruth is another story about an independent woman. Some compare it to Hardy’s Tess, but I think that Tess had more determination and independence than Ruth [and I would say read Tess rather than Ruth]. Ruth is a story about a woman who became an orphan as a teenager and was sent into the world to make money without any guidance. She is innocent as she grew up in the country with her parents alone (so it appears). Within the first fifty pages or so, she is courted and taken advantage by a young gentlemen outside her class. And he leaves her. Without much word, and she is left with the consequences of their sin.
The rest of the book is mostly about Ruth coming to terms with her sin. She is apparently so innocent, that she doesn’t think what she is doing is wrong until an innkeeper tells her bluntly what she is “a mistress/prostitute”. This is the first thing that I didn’t quite believe. Is someone so innocent? Even a country girl?
I was pleased by the approach of the minister (who was a dissenter), in that he did not combine the consequences of her sin with the act of sin itself. A baby should be loved and cherished with the hope that he or she can do good in the world. I hoped that this would be a novel of redemption, but in the end it really was not that. Redemption apparently only reaches those who have been wronged for centuries — the woman. When the man comes back into the story, he is given little chance to redeem himself. I was shocked. Ruth can be given a chance, but not the man. Maybe it was because of his willfulness in deceiving her, but no matter his sin, it should still have the chance to be forgiven, just as Ruth’s was in the beginning. Redemption should be shown to all, not just some. Isn’t that was why this book was written in the first? To show that women should not receive all the blame? And to be held just as responsible as man?
And Ruth, in the end, was really only made independent because she was a good-hearted creature who strove to make right the rest of her life. Throughout the book most of her decisions were her own, unless she was forced to make her own decision. She was independent, but only to a point. I would call Tess much more independent. Even Emma from Jane Austen’s story as she manipulated the people around her.
Another good, but still failing, attempt by a Victorian to make a case for the independence of women.