The Morality to Despise

At the beginning of the passage, Gaskell says:

“The daily life into which people are born, and into which they are absorbed before they are well aware, forms chains which only one in a hundred has moral strength enough to despise, and to break when the right time comes.”

This statement applies equally to both Ruth and Mr. Bellingham. He, being a middle class gentlemen, falls in love with a poor, timid girl. It does not take long though, for the differences between their backgrounds to have an effect on their relationship. Ruth spends her time listening and watching the rain. She enjoys the simple pleasures in life, and truly appreciates her surroundings. Mr. Bellingham, being well off, is more demanding. He expects to be entertained constantly and expects the best someone has to offer, no matter what it costs him. These instances can be seen when he cannot help but be overwhelmed with boredom while Ruth watches the rain,  or when they were staying at a house which was proclaimed full. Ruth did not find this fair to the other people who needed places to stay, though he tried to justify it with the fact that he compensated her with a significant amount of money.

When Ruth ventures out in the street in the rain, she meets a man who she refers to as a gentlemen. He talked of fairy tales and beautiful places with her. When she returned, she told the story to Mr. Bellingham who strongly disagreed with her. The man she had spoken of had a deformity on his back, was not clean, and had an unpleasant oder. Ruth did not even notice these attributes, but simply acknowledged his undeniably beautiful face. Mr. Bellingham was offended that she had even referred to this man as a gentlemen.

In a final display of ones inability to achieve morality over their upbringing, Mr. Belingham commits the ultimate form of abandonment. As he becomes ill with brain fever, Mrs. Bellingham (his mother) comes to his side. She is a very liberal woman, caring first and foremost about money, and immediately disapproves of Mr. Bellinghams  ‘dishonest’ relationship with Ruth. She scornfully scolds Ruth and makes snide remarks to her while he is bedridden. As Ruth waits outside of his door throughout each night and day, Mrs. Bellingham pleads for her absence.
This continues until finally, Mr.Belling recedes from his slumber, and begins to improve. Mrs. Bellingham does not allow Ruth to come into the room to see him, and takes the opportunity to scrutinize her son and his relationship with a degraded girl. She tells him that they must leave her presence and go home and that he is not to talk to her before departing. Mrs. Bellingham then leaves Ruth this letter:

“My son, on recovering from his illness, is, I thank God, happily conscious of the sinful way in which he has been living with you. By his earnest desire, and in order to avoid seeing you again, we are on the point of leaving this place; but before I go, I wish to exhort you to repentance, and to remind you that you will not have your own guilt alone upon your head, but that of any young man whom you may succeed in entrapping into vice. I shall pray that you may turn to an honest life, and I strongly recommend you, if indeed you are not ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ to enter some penitentiary. In accordance with my son’s wishes, I forward you in this envelope a bank-note of fifty pounds.
Margaret Bellingham.”

Mr. Bellingham allows his mother to force Ruth to leave, agreeing that his mother is probably right in her accusations. He also knows that if he does not obey his mother, he will have to listen to her nag without remorse, so he takes the easy way out, and stands aside as Ruth is pushed away. His inability to stand up for the one he ‘loves’ and his blatant disregard for Ruth and her feelings is a profound statement of Mr.Bellingham’s inability to put someone else before him, to be emotionally and mentally guided by his own selfish motivations. A perfect representation of how a person, like Mr.Bellingham cannot break free from the daily life from which he was born and achieve a sense of morality, not even for the woman he loves.

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One response to “The Morality to Despise

  1. Pingback: The best of the Newtonians | newtonian19·

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