What about Ruth?

Our class conversations always steer towards the relationship between Mama, Walter, and Beneatha, and because perspective is key, analyzing Ruth’s character will most certainly shed some new light on the personality of each of her family members. Ruth offers an interesting perspective of Walter, Mama, and Beneatha because she has married into the family, and was not raised by Mama and Big Walter. Ruth’s outsider opinions and actions towards each member for the family are different because of the unique relationships she has with each of the characters. 

Starting with the matriarch of the family, the first scene of Mama and Ruth together really highlights some tensions in their relationship. Like when we meet all people for the first time, we make first impressions; our first impression of Ruth was a weary wife and mother that had little to hope for. Our first impression of Mama is a strong substantial woman who has defiantly stood the test of time. With this perspective of Ruth and Mama, it clearly puts Mama higher in the pecking order than Ruth, and it is even more evident in scene I; “Ruth: (Angrily) I feed My son Lena! Mama: I ain’t meddling…” (38) Mama continues to alienate Ruth for a few more lines after this one; she judges Ruth for the way she cares for her son and husband throughout out the play. What this scene shows about Mama, from Ruth’s perspective, is that she can be overbearing and righteous at times. Ruth is the only one who can give this unique perspective because Beneatha and Walter haven’t been undermined by Mama in the way Ruth has. Mama approaches Ruth differently than Walter and Beneatha. Mama sees their relationship as a mentorship, and becomes offended when Ruth doesn’t follow in her footsteps. This comes to a climax when Mama is telling her to keep her child. When Ruth subtly admits that she does not want to keep the child, Mama disregards it hastily with confidence that Ruth will eventually come around. When Ruth admits to Walter that she put down a deposit and intends to get rid of the baby, Mama doesn’t even look at Ruth; she, in a way, attempts to show Ruth how good of a Mother she is by just letting Walter put his own foot down. When that doesn’t happen and he walks out the door we see Mama’s character crack a little bit; we see how she realizes she may have not done such a good job at raising her children after all. Mama is a very complex character and her relationship with Ruth is imperative to see all of the important aspects of her personality.

Ruth’s relationship with, and opinions of Walter and Beneatha also prove to be fruitful. At so many points during the play, when Beneatha has done something silly or obtrusive, she commentates of the rudeness or fault of her actions in a way Mama wouldn’t. When Beneatha finds out Ruth is pregnant, Beneatha’s; reaction is less than polite; “Beneatha: Did you plan it, Ruth? Ruth: Mind your own business. Beneatha: It is my business- where is he going to live, on the roof?” (56). This reveals that Beneatha is quite self-absorbed at times, and despite her education, blind to everyone’s feelings and opinions. When Mama or Walter interact with Beneatha it doesn’t stand out as much because they are a family, and families fight and say things they don’t mean all the time. When it comes to Walter, Ruth’s relationship with Walter almost reveals more about Mama and Big Walter than Walter himself. The way that Walter treats Ruth at times reflects badly on Mama and Big Walter for raising him to be this way. What Ruth reveals about Walters character is his inability think more of others than himself; When Walter finds out that Ruth is having a baby and intends to get rid of it, it takes him days to come around and be there for Ruth because he is too wrapped up in his own life to consider that his problems might not be as important as someone else’s. The stages Walter is at in Growing up is also clearly measured within his marriage to Ruth. Ruth can only offer this perspective because the majority of way Mama treated Walter throughout the play only allowed him to act like a child; and as a result, the way he treated Ruth became a marker for the ways in which he had grown at every stage of the play.

Ruth is arguably the character with the most incite in the play as to who each of the characters are. Looking through her perspective at each of the characters will reveal more aspects of their personalities than we would find by just analyzing each characters’ own visions of themselves.

  1. What other personality traits do you think Ruth brings out in each of the characters?
  2. What about Ruth’s Personality brings out these unique personality traits in the other characters?
  3. How would you describe Ruth’s character through the eyes of Mama, Beneatha, Travis, or Beneatha? (chose one)

10 Replies to “What about Ruth?”

  1. Hey, Kate. I really like how you mentioned Ruth out of all the characters in A Raisin in The Sun. She is one essential character that people miss. To answer your first question, Ruth is just a women “about thirty but in a few years, she will be known among her people as a settle women (Hansberry 28). Throughout the course of the book, Ruth is a “soft” personality type. She is not assertive; she just lets life “happen” to her. She is basically the “worn-out wife” with a monotonous, routine lifestyle. It is easy to describe Ruth’s character through the eyes of Mama. Mama would describe her as being a strong women who constantly fights poverty and domestic troubles. Mama and Ruth both may empathize with one another because they are married in the family and they both want to attain the same goal: to live in an austere lifestyle. Great discussion on Ruth. She is often missed but she is also important in the family. I can’t wait to see your presentation in class. Good luck!

    – Makense Garcia

  2. Hi Kate! I am interested in your question regarding how the other characters would describe Ruth’s personality from their point of view. I would like to focus on Mama specifically and how she views Ruth to answer the question. Throughout the play, Ruth has always been someone who Mama could go to, someone who usually sides with her viewpoints. After Mama tells Beneatha she is close to getting slapped, Ruth agrees “That’s just what she needs, all right!” (Hansberry 51). Mama would describe Ruth as someone with good opinions and ideas. She is the mother of her grandchild, who she loves deeply. Mama would most likely start by describing Ruth as a devoted and caring mother to Travis, a mother who would do anything for the betterment of her child and family. In addition to this, Mama would probably comment on her compassion and kindness. Mama witnesses Ruth display this compassion and love to her husband, even when he does not always deserve it in the moment. Lastly, Mama could describe Ruth as an incredibly hard worker. Mama sees her go to work in other homes in order to help support her own home, and lead by example for her son about the values of hard work.

  3. Hey Kate! I really enjoyed reading your blog post about Ruth, who is truly an underappreciated character. She does so much for the family and no one in the book appreciates her like she should be appreciated. To answer your third question about Ruth through the eyes of another character, I would say that Walter just sees Ruth as someone who cooks and cleans, just like his mother. He doesn’t fully appreciate all that she does and he believes that she should just be doing household duties and taking care of her husband all day. In the first act Walter begins to complain about his eggs and then follows up by saying “‘That is just what is wrong with the colored woman in this world…Don’t understand about building their men up and making ’em feel like they somebody.'” (Hansberry 34). Through Walter’s eyes Ruth is just another black woman who is supposed to do what all the black women do. It does not seem like he finds anything special about his wife and he just wants her to be the same as everyone else. Overall, looking forward to hearing your discussion in class about Ruth.

  4. Hey Kate! I think it was really important to analyze and observe how Ruth and her relationships to each character reveals a lot. To answer your question about what Ruth’s personality brings out, specifically in Mama, it seems to be a maternal force. As you pointed out, there is a bit of tension with Ruth and Mama that stems from Lena being overbearing. And although we have these minor disagreements with Ruth we also see a greater source of support for Lena in Ruth. Whenever Mama and Walter are at odds with one another it always seems to be Ruth who plays devil’s advocate. When Mama reveals that she bought the house and Walter is upset it is Ruth who tries to level with Walter. “Please honey – let me be glad … you be glad too.” (Pg. 91) We know that a big part of Mama’s reasoning to buy the house is so Ruth will have her baby because Mama’s maternal side is in full effect when she knows about the pregnancy. To Mama, Ruth is a mother just like her and she may be critical of her at times but she still comes from a position of mentorship and support because Ruth is her voice of reason to Walter.

  5. Hi, Kate! I really love how you chose to study Ruth because I agree with you that the other three characters are talked about more. You made strong points about her relationship with Mama. Sometimes I was surprised at how involved Mama could be in Walter and Ruth’s relationship. I’m not sure if you felt the same way, but I actually read Mama and Ruth’s relationship as more cold and distant in the book, but when I watched the film they seemed a lot warmer to me. Just an interesting observation. I like your question about how Ruth is seen from the other characters’ point of view and I chose to observe Travis. I feel that Travis has a typical child-mother relationship with Ruth because he gives her attitude when she asks him to do things, but in the end still loves his mom. She is more of the “leader” for him than Walter because he always asks for her permission before Walter and maybe this is in part due to the fact that Ruth seems more involved with Travis since Walter works all the time. In the beginning of the play, their relationship is portrayed perfectly when Travis sulks because his mom said she can’t give him fifty cents. He storms around, sighs, angrily makes his bed and tries to rush out of the door, but in the end, Ruth begins to tease him and the mood shifts when she hugs him and Travis lightens up as he says, “Aw gaalee—Mama…” (Hansberry 30). For Travis, Ruth can be nagging but he loves her deeply and sees her as “the boss”.

  6. Hi Kate! I was so glad to see you talked about Ruth in your blog post, because she is such an interesting character and I think we skip over her sometimes. I liked your point that Mama and Ruth have an interesting and complex relationship. I think that Mama frequently sees Ruth as her own child and takes her under her wing in a protective, parental role. This can come off very loving at times, but other times it can come off as tough love. For example, when Mama said to Walter “Your wife say she going to destroy your child” (75), it came off as very harsh toward the situation. No woman wants to think of an abortion that way. However, she meant it in a loving way, like she wants Ruth to keep the baby and love it regardless of their situation. Mama is there for Ruth through her pregnancy, even if her words are harsh at times, like when she talks about how Ruth was “talking about killing babies” (94). She, at times, makes Ruth’s potential decision make her seem like some baby-killing monster, even though that is the hardest decision a woman can make. She gives her tough love throughout it, but at times her wording could be a little more gentle.

  7. Hi Kate, I’m really glad that you took the time to further analyze Ruth’s character because I agree that she is sometimes overlooked. To answer your second question, I think that Ruth’s realist view of the world is what affects the other characters the most. For example, when Walter and Beneatha were acting as if they were in Africa, Ruth was the one to get them to stop and come back to reality: “Beneatha, you got company- what’s the matter with you? Walter Lee Younger, get down off that table and stop acting like a fool…” (pg 79). This quote from Ruth shows that she did not appreciate their playful acting, and she would rather have her family members acting more “normal”. Ruth is the one in the Younger family that the others can always count on to know what is realistic for them, and what isn’t.

  8. Hi Kate! I really liked how you made your blogpost all about Ruth because I do feel like she is often overlooked in our class discussions. I feel like Ruth also has the same dreams and aspirations as the rest of the family, even though they may not be projected as much as the other members. To address your third discussion question, I want to talk about how Beneatha views Ruth through her eyes. I feel like Beneatha sees Ruth as another mother figure because Ruth is always the one to talk to Beneatha and hear her out about her problems, such as finding her identity. A moment that always stands out in my mind is after Mama and Beneatha got into that huge argument over believing in God. After it was over. Ruth told Beneatha, “What you did was childish- so you got treated like a child” to which Beneatha responds, “I see” (52). I feel like Ruth is always the one that brings not only Beneatha, but everyone else back down to earth.

  9. Hey Kate, I fully agree that Ruth is a character who needs to be analyzed deeper, and her relationship with each of the characters in the house brings out unique traits in them. For Mama, Ruth brings out the role of peacemaker, or at least attempts to at certain points. As Mama is a mentor figure to Ruth, that peacemaking ability is spread to Ruth and it is seen when she states, “Bennie, why you always gotta be pickin’ on your brother? Can’t you be a little sweeter sometimes?” (Hansberry, page 73). The quotation shows that Ruth has much of the same abilities to want to and try to stop drama in the household, and Ruth picked that up from Mama. Mama always plays peacemaker for Ruth, in example she tries to convince Ruth to keep the baby, and even when Walter says to get rid of it, Mama tells her to wait and see if he comes around about it. Ruth’s personality can actually work to bring this peacemaking effect out in Mama, as it is visible how worn out she is at points of the play, between Walter drinking & Ruth becoming pregnant. Through all of this it is easy for Mama to see that Ruth is a woman in need, so she is always willing to give her assistance. Through the eyes of Mama, she most likely sees Ruth as an extremely loyal wife and mother, she stayed loyal and loving with Walter even when things got rough with him. For Mama to see all of this she most likely began to appreciate Ruth more, furthering the mentorship.

  10. Hi Kate! I really enjoyed reading your blog post and I liked how you chose to focus on Ruth rather than the more prominent characters. I personally thought the relationship between Mama and Ruth throughout the novel was interesting. Considering Mama is such a strong and outspoken character, sometimes it seems as though she just bulldozes over Ruth and criticizes the way she chooses to raise Travis and the way she deals with Walter. However, I also think Mama has a lot of respect for Ruth and she appreciates having her perspective on certain things. “Mama would listen to you. You know she listen to you more than she do me and Bennie. She think more of you…” (32). Here Walter explains to Ruth that Mama will be more likely to listen to her rather than him if she speaks highly of the liquor store proposal. Ruth plays a very strong female character in the play as well as Beneatha and Mama and I really liked how she was the focus of your blog post.

Leave a Reply