OF THE BABY NAME RUTH
Ruth Connors is the sensitive, poetic teen-aged girl touched by Susie Salmon’s departing soul in Alice Sebold’s 2002 best-seller, The Lovely Bones, which was made into a 2009 movie. Ruth is a clear opposite of the living Susie – she has a dark outlook and viewpoint of the world, unlike the rosier environment with which the universe had gifted Susie. Ruth becomes a magnetic draw for Susie from the Other Side, as Susie strives to reconnect with the life that had so abruptly been ended for her. Eventually, Susie breaks through and, for a brief time, is able to inhabit Ruth’s body and to experience the joy of union with her erstwhile boyfriend, Ray. Finally, Susie comes to realize that it is time for her to move further on in her own journey, away from the earthbound family whose fates have so entranced her. Young Ruth, after her own entanglement in the ethereal world, becomes a visionary and a dedicated crusader for the rights of female victims of violent crime.
Ruth Dead is a character in Toni Morrison’s 1977 bestseller, Song of Solomon. Ruth is the mother of the protagonist, Macon “Milkman” Dead III, a young African American man. Ruth was the daughter of the town’s only black physician, whom she loved to excess and for whom she endlessly mourns. Trapped in a loveless marriage to a man who is emotionally abusive to her, and supported largely by her husband’s indomitable sister, Pilate, it may be argued that Ruth is a rather ineffectual cipher of a woman. This is a woman, however, who stands up to that abusive husband when he tries to force her to abort the child who will become her beloved son. In her own quiet way, she goes about her life honoring exactly what is precious to her against all odds.
Ruth Leonard is a character in John Updike’s acclaimed 1960 novel, Rabbit, Run, first of the four novels featuring his protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Ruth is an atheistic, humorous, part-time prostitute who becomes Rabbit’s lover and is impregnated by him, only to be casually dumped as he returns to his own pregnant wife. Not a good time in the history of womankind to be a single mother, a prostitute, an atheist – any of the above. Ruth, however, decides to forge ahead with her pregnancy on her own, and tells the groveling Rabbit to get lost unless he wants to commit to her. For this she earns our undying regard.
Ruth Younger is the wife in Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 groundbreaking play, A Raisin in the Sun. Ruth is emblematic of young black women in the 1950s, in that not only is she placed in a position of subservience to her (less intelligent) husband, she must also pay respect to a society that regards her as less than a fully realized human being. Toiling as a domestic in white women’s houses, she scarcely has enough energy to run a household for her own family. The financial exigencies of their lives force the Youngers into constant compromises and internal bickering. When Ruth realizes she is pregnant with another child, she temporarily considers abortion as a solution. Ruth, however, is made of stern stuff, and ultimately weighs in on the side of valiantly striving for a better life for the entire family. Somehow, she reasons, they will make it – she loves her husband and child and, although naturally pessimistic, she opts to believe that their commitment to each other will help them to succeed in a white-dominated world.