Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Chapter Seven – Analysis

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Brief Summary

Ruth does her best to nurse Henry but when his mother, Mrs. Bellingham, arrives she is pushed aside and kept in ignorance of how he’s doing. Mrs. Bellingham is furious at Ruth trapping Henry, for that is the only thing she believes could have happened.

Analysis

We see the underlying strength of the young and inexperienced Ruth; She transcends her internal sufferings and focuses on taking care of Henry. When forbidden access to his room she stays as close to him as possible, just outside the door. Her nature is passionate and she wholeheartedly, to the point of abandoning herself, lives Henry’s suffering.
Mrs. Bellingham creates a lot of fuss and bustle bringing in her doctor, servants, and a water-mattress; naturally, she wants the best for her son, but her care for him is all material. She does sit up and tend him but carelessly wears a silken gown that noisily rustles about.

Mrs. Morgan

Gaskell describes the gallery hall as dazzling; Mrs. Morgan has had her “slovenly” servants Nest and Gwen clean the place because of Mrs. Bellingham’s imminent arrival. The bedroom doors are thrown wide open. She clearly wants to show off or impress the grand lady. Mrs Morgan rather resembles Mrs Mason, they are both concerned about the appearance of their establishments. The reputation of a place greatly influenced its success, especially if it was run by a woman. Mrs. Morgan knew Ruth was not Henry’s wife but said nothing, now she asks Ruth to keep out of the way and use the back stairs.

Discussion Questions

  • What does Mrs. Bellingham’s way of coping with Henry’s illness tell us about how she brought him up?
  • What other similarities are there between Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Mason?

Featured Painting: Hope Deferred, and Hopes and Fears that Kindle Hope, by Charles West Cope

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