CHAPTER VI
RUTH

M. Louis Cazamian, in his Le Roman Social en Angleterre, gives to the chapter dealing with Mrs. Gaskell the title ' "L'Interventionnisme Chrétien." Of that remarkable trilogy of novels in which Mrs. Gaskell sought to penetrate the field of social and moral relationships, Ruth best illustrates such a point of view. The story is an example of Christianity as it should be applied to life. Written by the wife of a minister, it teems with Christian thought. The heroine is a blameless and wholly lovable woman, who reaps in bitterness and death the results of the commission of one wrong and the acquiescence in another. With the heroine is a little group of characters who have been equaled only by Balzac and Victor Hugo and Dickens at their best; of these characters one is a Dissenting minister, another his devout sister, to whom Mrs. Gaskell gives the name Faith, and a third an old servant, who has devoted her life to one injured in childhood by her unwilful carelessness.

Ruth is a plea for the single standard of morality for men and women. In the characterization of Henry Bellingham--his escapade, his relief at being allowed to escape from its consequences, and his final sorry actions--Mrs. Gaskell showed the attitude of society towards such conduct in men, and the book becomes a powerful argument for a change in this attitude. There is, moreover, a constant contrast of Thurstan Benson, the author's ideal Christian, with Mr. Bradshaw, the pharisaical upholder of a narrow creed; and no one can doubt for a moment which of the two she considered the more righteous. To a modern reader there seems nothing strange in a plea for a "single stand-

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Elizabeth Gaskell
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • A Chronology of Mrs. Gaskell's Life and Works xi
  • Chapter I - Birth, Parentage, Youth 1
  • Chapter II - Early Married Life 10
  • Chapter III - Mary Barton 15
  • Chapter IV - From Hand and Heart to Cranford 30
  • Chapter V - Cranford 36
  • Chapter VI - Ruth 47
  • Chapter VII - From Morton Hall to the Poor Clare 59
  • Chapter VIII - North and South 64
  • Chapter IX - The Life of Charlotte Brontë 77
  • Chapter X - From the Doom of the Griffiths to Cousin Phillis 104
  • Chapter XI - Sylvia's Lovers 114
  • Chapter XII - Wives and Daughters 129
  • Chapter XIII - Conclusion 140
  • A Note on Mrs. Gaskell's Use of Dialect 145
  • Index 145
  • Bibliography 163
  • Index to the Bibliography 263
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