Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Volume One – Summary & List of Pivotal Characters

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.


Spoiler Warning

Ruth Hilton, an orphaned seamstress, meets Henry Bellingham, a wealthy and selfish young man, at the hunt-ball, he is taken with her beauty. By chance they see each-other again when saving a young boy from drowning after which they begin to meet Sundays after church.

Sundays are long and solitary days for Ruth, days when everyone is with friends or family so she’s happy to have someone who cares for her and listens to her. On a day that she and Bellingham are walking Mrs. Mason, Ruth’s employer, sees them and immediately dismisses her, fearful for the reputation of her establishment. Bellingham declares his love and tells her to come with him.

Some months later we re-join the couple as they stay in Wales where he falls terribly ill. When his commandeering mother arrives to nurse him she persuades him to forget Ruth; he sends her £50 and abandons her. Ruth is thrown into tumult of emotion and persecution but Thurston Benson, a gentle and deformed minister rescues, her. He sends for his sister Faith. It’s found out that Ruth is pregnant. They decide to take her in, telling their neighbors she is a distant widowed cousin, Mrs. Denbigh.

Pivotal Characters

  • Ruth Hilton
  • Henry Bellingham
  • Thurstan Benson
  • Faith Benson
  • Sally
  • Mrs. Mason
  • Jenny
  • Thomas

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