Ruth Allan; Or, The Two Homes
This is a religious story published in the 19th century that tells the story of two girls, from ‘good’ and ‘bad’ working class families. Though aimed at children, the book is significant in that the narrative voice is often directed toward the adult, specifically the mother, rather than at the child reader. Annie Tiller’s mother is depicted as uncaring, lazy, and inattentive to the education and discipline of her daughter. Ruth Allan’s mother, in contrast, is shown to be meticulous and industrious, and aims to attend to her daughter’s educational and employment needs. Annie is depicted as wayward and rude in comparison to her counterpart Ruth. The contrast between the girls can be noted in the illustration depicting the moment where the girls meet and Annie tries to convince Ruth to attend the fair with her. Annie is much larger than Ruth, commanding more space in the illustration, while her facial features are almost simianised, often a characteristic of mid- to late-19th century depictions of British working class and other marginal groups. Annie’s ultimate downfall comes through her visit to the fair, where she ‘tasted its empty, falsely-called pleasures’ (51), despite Ruth’s exhortations. Her ill-judged decision leads to her eventual death, as she is seriously injured in a fall from a swing boat and ‘is carried home almost dying, her skull being seriously injured from the violence of the fall’ (52). This scene is accompanied by an illustration which shows a lifeless Annie in the foreground and the chaotic atmosphere of the fair in the background, including the swing boat (52). Ruth works in service for an upper-class family, but is accused of theft, eventually revealed to have been arranged by the cook and Mrs Tiller. Ruth’s reputation is cleared and towards the end of the book she encounters Mrs Tiller, many years later, who is now an alcoholic. Following Mrs Tiller’s death, the narrative closes with a stark reminder to mothers, reminding the reader to ‘pause to mark the effect of a mother’s example, of a mother’s influence, upon the characters of her children. As clay in the hand of a potter, so is the character of a child moulded by a mother’s training, and made fit either for an eternity of bliss, or reserved for that everlasting burning prepared for the devil and his angels’ (118).
By the author of ‘Bob the crossing sweeper,’ ‘Margy and her feather,’ &c
Place of Publication:
The Book Society
Date of Publication:
119 [i.e. 127],  p. : ill. ; 13.6 cm.
Gender, Moral, Death, Religion, Domestic Work, Mothers, Girls, Class, Alcohol
Pollard Collection - TCD