The following characterization of Ruby Ruggles, like that of Roger Carbury and Father John Barham, carefully situates the character, assumptions, even imaginations of the young woman geographically and economically, and in a single paragraph provides more infromation that does Dickens about Pip in Great Expectations. — George P. Landow

There is perhaps no condition of mind more difficult for the ordinarily well-instructed inhabitant of a city to realise than that of such a girl as Ruby Ruggles. The rural day labourer and his wife live on a level surface which is comparatively open to the eye. Their aspirations, whether far good or evil, — whether for food and drink to be honestly earned for themselves and children, or for drink first, to be come by either honestly or dishonestly, — are, if looked at at all, fairly visible. And with the men of the Ruggles class one can generally find out what they would be at, and in what direction their minds are at work. But the Ruggles woman, especially the Ruggles young woman, --is better educated, has higher aspirations and a brighter imagination, and is infinitely more cunning than the man. If she be good-looking and relieved from the pressure of want, her thoughts soar into a world which is as unknown to her as heaven is to us, and in regard to which her longings are apt to be infinitely stronger than are ours for heaven. Her education has been much better than that at the man. She can read, whereas he can only spell words from a book. She can write a letter after her fashion, whereas he can barely spell words out on a paper. Her tongue is more glib, and her intellect sharper. But her ignorance as to the reality of things is much more gross than his. By such contact as he has with men in markets, in the streets of the towns hc frequents, and even in the ficelds, he learns something unconsciously of the relative condition of his countrymen, — and, as to that which he does not learn, his imagination is obtuse. But the woman builds castles in the air, and wonders, and longs. To the young farmer the squire's daughter is a superior being very rnuch out of his way. To the farmer's daughter the young squire is an Apollo, whom to look at is a pleasure, — by whom to be looked at is a delight. The danger for the most part is soon over. The girl marries after her kind, and then husband and children put the matter at rest far ever.

A mind more absolutely uninstructed than that of Ruby Ruggles as to the world beyond Suffolk and Norfolk it would be impossible to find. [Chapter, 18, "Ruby Ruggles Hears a Love Tale," pp. 169-70 — location of passage in full text of the novel]

Questions

How does Trollope manage to describe Ruby's strenghts and weaknesses without appearing condescending, or is it impossible for a twenty-first-century reader to react to this passage as would have one of the Victorian audience?

How does Trollope's socio-political explanations of Ruby's character illuminate Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Found, Holman Hunt's Awakening Conscience, and G. F. Watts's Found Drowned?


Victorian Web Overview The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope

Last modified 23 December 2006