Looking At Fanny Fern's 'Ruth Hall' Through The Eyes Of Flowers

Looking At Fanny Fern's 'Ruth Hall' Through The Eyes Of Flowers

A journal meditation of Fanny Fern's use of imagery in her classic novel.

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In Fanny Fern's "Ruth Hall," the author introduces Ruth’s character much differently than the other females. For example, Ruth’s personality is of fond demureness compared to the other girls in her boarding school. It is made aware to the reader later on in the chapters (as she marries her husband and starts a life with him), that she is also very fond of poetry and gardening particularly fond of flowers, for her daughter’s name is Daisy. The approach in this journal entry is to disclose the character’s relation to nature, but more precisely, her connections to the idea of flowers through the growth of her womanly aspect, individuality, and beauty.

The tale begins with a short introduction to the protagonist’s present moment in time, and gives a brief glimpse at her childhood. Fern specifically says in the preface of her book, she does not intend to write long introductions and descriptions. Therefore, she purposefully dives straight into what she aspires will bring hope and inspiration to the reader. Promptly after reading Ruth’s backstory, the reader begins to realize Ruth is an outsider to the rest of the females. Her mother died while Ruth was still young, which identifies the character’s lack of ideal representation for a woman at the time of the tale, making her extraordinary to others.

“Ruth’s schoolmates wondering the while why she took so much pains to bother her head with those stupid books, when she was everyday growing prettier, and all the world knew that it was quite unnecessary for a pretty woman to be clever." —Fanny Fern

This quote slowly begins the weaving of my argument in which the more pages read, the more Ruth’s character not only grows intellectually, but through the eyes of the flower — Ruth’s person is affected by her environment. It is affected by her environment because women, such as her mother-in-law, see marriage as “years of service” to a man as opposed to devotion to their relationship. Ruth desires not be admired, but that she might be loved.

I would like to focus on chapters ten and eleven because they are chapters dedicated to the time Ruth spends with her daughter on her own, and Fern specifies their emotions and feelings based off the summer season in Ruth’s new home.

The chapters are rather short, but meticulously explore the ideology of flowers toward the development of her character and the increment within their mother/daughter relationship. Within Ruth’s time away from her conservative mother-in-law, she is able to be at peace with herself; she is a free flower. Flower symbolizing her female being, but is not constantly reminded of her expectation as a woman, regarding her purpose or image.

"She could pull out her comb, and let her curls flow about her face, without being considered ‘frivolous’...” — Fanny Fern

Ruth’s character being the opposite of what is expected makes her a target for the mother-in-law because she is more independent. Ruth’s interest in poetry makes her even worse, according to Harry’s mother, because it is the most frivolous of all reading; meaning a woman can not express how she truly feels because she is in fact a woman. Then at the end of chapter eleven, it includes a short poem stanza, “The rose that sweetest doth awake, / Will soonest go to rest?” In these lines, the author foreshadows the resting rose, the rose being Ruth. The rose awoke, but is being warned of her comfortableness. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it to everybody.

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