Can a person commit a sin of passion without realizing it? In Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell daringly confronted prevailing views about sin and illegitimacy with her compassionate and honest portrait of a 'fallen woman'.
The tale of a young woman seduced and abandoned by her lover, then taken in and protected by a kindly minister and his sister, “Ruth” is remarkably progressive for the period.
Ruth Hilton is an orphaned young seamstress who catches the eye of a gentleman, Mr. Henry Bellingham, who is enthralled by her simplicity and beauty.
Innocent in heart, and with her life wrecked at its earliest outset, Ruth is the story of a young girl seduced and betrayed while little more than a child.
When she soon loses her job and home, Bellingham offers her comfort and shelter, only to cruelly desert her soon after.
Nearly paralyzed with grief and shame, Ruth is offered the chance of a new life among people who give her love and respect, even though they are at first unaware of her secret: an illegitimate child.
When Henry Bellingham enters her life again, however, Ruth must make the impossible choice between social acceptance and personal pride.
Ruth—Gaskell's third novel, first published in three volumes in 1853—is notable as one of the rare instances in the fiction of the era of a positive portrayal of unwed motherhood and the thematic condemnation of the social stigma of illegitimacy.
ELIZABETH GASKELL (1810 – 1865) was an English novelist and short story writer. Her fictions offered a meticulous portrait of Victorian society. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848. Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857, was the first biography about Brontë. Some of Gaskell's best-known novels are Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters.