Ruth Hall (formerly Ruth Ellet):
Ruth is loving, grateful, adventurous and very strong. The only thing she ever truly wanted was to be loved, and Harry did that for her. She wasn’t in to fancy clothes or expensive belongings but in to family and nature. Her one true enemy was Mrs. Hall who calls her a “yellow-haired simpleton”. Ruth had a tough time making it through the death of her husband and daughter but eventually became a successful journalist.
Nettie is Harry and Ruth’s third child. “Nettie, is Ruth second, in face, form and feature”, as said by Mr. Walter. Nettie was the wittier of the two, always telling jokes or playing on words. She was very strong opinioned with a touch of innocence. She loved her mother and sister very much.
Katy is Harry and Ruth’s second child. When she was young she was very adventurous and loving like her mother. Ruth’s description of her is, “with veins through which life-blood flowed more evenly, thoughtful, discriminating, reserved.” This was largely due to Katy’s stay at her grandmothers, Mrs. Hall’s.
Harry is Ruth’s loving husband. He is a very hard worker and would do anything for Ruth. His parents show their disapproval in his choice but he loves Ruth very much an doesn’t care what they think. His death really traumatized Ruth and the children.
Mrs. Hall is a cruel old witch who was Harry’s mother. Even before the wedding she bad-mouthed Ruth and it never stopped. She was very reluctant to give her son to another woman. She always kept a watchful eye over the couple and when Harry died she took it upon herself to take Katy from Ruth. Then after she read Ruth’s book (without knowing it was hers) she loved it, but when she found out who the author was she claimed she hated it all along.
Harry’s father. He was Mrs. Hall’s gossip buddy and a doctor as well. He believed in the old fashioned way of doing things. If he would have cared about Ruth more he may have been able to save Daisy’s life.
Ruth’s wealthy father. He sent her off to boarding school and figured once she married she wouldn’t be his problem. When Ruth was poor he was very reluctant to help but after her fame he credits her success to his parenting (or lack there of).
Ruth's firstborn child. Daisy liked going out into the woods to pick flowers with her mom. She died at age seven. Her life probably could have been saved if Mr. Hall would have come to their house sooner, but he thought Ruth was overreacting so he ignored their calls for help.
Mr. & Mrs. Skiddy:
Ruth lived with Mr. Skiddy for some time while Mrs. Skiddy was away. Ruth helped take care of their children while she was gone.
Mr. Tom Develin:
This is who Ruth went to for help when she needed to find a job. He encouraged her to try to be a teacher, but when examination day came, he voted against Ruth for the job as a teacher.
Hyacinth is Ruth's out of touch brother. He discourages her from being a writer and never helps her when she needs it. Hyacinth is cocky.
Mr. & Mrs. Millet:
Mr. and Mrs. Millet are Ruth's cousins. They are very unhelpful to her and make fun of her for not having much money.
Ruth and Harry's housekeeper while they lived on the farm before Katy died.
Mrs. Hall gossips with Mrs. Jones multiple times when she needs to vent.
Mary Leon was Ruth's friend from boarding school. Leon died in the insane hospital shortly before Ruth went to visit there.
Ruth Hall starts with young Ruth Ellet fresh out of boarding school and getting ready to marry the love of her life, Harry Hall. Although she ends up living with her malicious mother-in-law and apathetic father-in-law, nothing takes the joy away from the newly-wed. Life is well and perfect, and soon Ruth has her first child, Daisy. She and Harry raise Daisy with love, but the mother-in-law Mrs. Hall criticizes Ruth's mothering skills often. After seven years of life, Daisy is overtaken by croup. The death is blamed on Ruth, although her father-in law Mr. Hall was truly responsible for not giving her medical care even when he was begged to. Ruth and Harry move away for Ruth's health and after much mourning the couple continue their life and have two more daughters, Katy and Nettie. While Nettie is still very young, Harry dies of typhus fever. Ruth is left a widow with two young children and no means of support. Her father and brother hold tight to their excess of money and refuse to assist Ruth and her children. Mr. and Mrs. Hall do the same.
Determined to raise Harry’s children away from Ruth, Mrs. Hall takes Katy to live with her. She claims it is for the best and that Katy will get what she needs. Ruth tries desperately to raise enough money to take Katy back and raise her children comfortably. She does odd end jobs with little success, barely affording the roof over her and Nettie’s head. Ruth attempts to be a school teacher, but gains no favor with school boards. She then sets her mind to journaling, knowing she has strong writing skills. Ruth’s wealthy brother Hyacinth edits a paper, so Ruth submits her work to him. She is cruelly turned down. Finally she gets accepted by two other papers and stars her career. Wages are still low and Ruth continues to struggle.
Ruth Hall is an autobiographical novel about Fanny Fern. Because Fern was a journalist, it is no surprise that each chapter of Ruth Hall didn't last longer than four pages. Fern filled each brief chapter with vivid details of the setting, people, and situations. However, most of the chapters are hard to relate to the chapters before them because Fern spans great chunks of time between most of the chapters. Also the book is written with an omniscient narrator, so each chapter involves characters from all over and their conversations and thoughts concerning Ruth. Her fast pace and well-rounded narrative helps the reader know how quickly Ruth’s life unfolds into disaster. Throughout her book, Fanny Fern wrote with an incredible wit. There are plenty of chapters that are sad, but there are reoccurring moments where Fern’s sarcasm shows.
Obviously Ruth has experienced difficulties finding her place in society. A struggle exists between these two groups. Women are supposed to be the stay at home superheroes of the house, and nothing else. They need to raise the children, make the food, and mend the clothing. They should have no time for anything else, save for procreation. When Ruth is trying to find work, either at the school or as a seamstress, societies issue with women working forces her to go into destitution.
Familial conflicts are abundant throughout the novel. Ruth, who in initial chapters reveals her deep respect and admiration of her brother Hyacinth, has a falling out with her brother as the story progresses. While out of luck and in dire need of assistance, Ruth turns to him for monetary aid only to be begrudgingly helped. Later on she calls upon him for help again, asking to see if her works could be published in his paper. Not only does he decline, but tells her that her work is unworthy of being published and that she has no talent. The love that Ruth expresses for him is obviously not reciporocated.
Ruth experiences similar concerns with Harry’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Hall. Upon their initial meeting with her, they scour her house trying to find any sign of neglectful wifehood. Even after finding nothing to raise concern, they stay out with them and often blame Ruth of ruining their precious Harry. When Ruth’s first child Daisy falls ill, Mr. Hall ignores Ruth’s pleas for help, and results in her death from croup. Later on, the good Dr. Hall causes the death of his own son by failing to diagnose and prescribe the proper treatment for Typhoid fever. Their hatred for Ruth resulted in the death of two people, and they follow that up with holding another of Ruth’s children for ransom.