Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Chapter Ten – Analysis

Gaskell Blog ©
Guest Contributor: Kim Egolf

Brief Summary

Mr Benson – the deformed gentleman – determines to help Ruth, especially as she cannot currently help herself. She remains silent and nearly unconscious of the outside world, taking nothing to eat and barely breathing. He visits Mrs Morgan’s inn to ask advice about Ruth’s current situation. She counsels him to throw Ruth on the mercy of her “friends” – Mr Bellingham, specifically. This he does through a letter. Mrs Bellingham intercepts it and responds, reminding Mr Benson of the fifty pounds and counseling him to send Ruth to the penitentiary for her profligate actions.


In this chapter we see Mr Benson’s benevolent actions extended yet again. He has already provided Ruth a listening ear and a comforting presence directly after Henry leaves. Then he saves her from suicide and takes her into his lodgings to recover. Now he takes it upon himself to discover how he can help her further. Where many others might have abandoned Ruth as soon as possible, Mr Benson – having only met her twice before – becomes her only friend.


While we don’t really meet any new characters, we do see some development from characters we’ve already met. Mrs Bellingham once again shows us her censorious attitude toward Ruth. She truly feels that she has done right by the girl, having given her fifty pounds to extricate her son from the situation. She also continues to protect (or perhaps interfere with) Henry from the consequences of his own actions. In contrast to her, Mr Benson shows us his ultimately nurturing and solicitous nature. He cares enough to find out about Ruth’s situation and try to help her as much as he can.

Discussion Questions

  • When faced with a situation like this, would you react more as a Mrs Bellingham or as a Mr Benson?
  • Does Ruth truly belong in a penitentiary?
  • Do you think Ruth will ever recover from her stupor?

Painting: Evening, by Jules Breton © Bridgeman Art Library


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