Ruth's Pedagogy: Intersections of Sexuality and Class in Somatic Metaphor and Imagery
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Here I argue that representations of malady in Ruth function in such a way as to not only reinforce bourgeois ideology of good and moral behavior along both gender and class lines, but to connect moral transgressions—a form of "insanity"—with sickness through language of susceptibility and malady. This interrelationship surrounding propriety is also utilized by Gaskell in order to demonstrate a possibility of recovery; Ruth occupies both the figure of the fallen woman and that of the angel of the house, and Gaskell, by couching her lesson in terms well recognized by the contemporary middle class reader, illustrates the importance of circumstance and the ability of a person to make penance. However, Gaskell remains within convention, not truly questioning existing social systems in the creation of the fallen woman and utilizing metaphor and imagery that depends on contemporary characterizations of the working class and women as categorical Others. Further, Ruth remains such an individualized character that she becomes unbelievable, and while Gaskell's contemporary readers may feel sympathy for Ruth, they do not extend this sympathy to the fallen women they encounter in their own lives.
SubjectWomen, gender, sexuality, class, Victorian, Victorian fiction, Elizabeth Gaskell. Ruth, mid-Victorian, sickness, illness, somatic, somatic metaphor,
Evans, Clella Deanna (2017). Ruth's Pedagogy: Intersections of Sexuality and Class in Somatic Metaphor and Imagery. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from