Ruth is a young orphan girl working in a respectable sweatshop for the overworked Mrs Mason. She is selected to go to a ball to repair torn dresses. At the ball she meets the aristocratic Henry Bellingham, a rake figure who is instantly attracted to her. They meet again by chance and form a secret friendship; on an outing together they are spotted by Mrs Mason who, fearing for her shop's reputation, dismisses Ruth
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Although RUTH is too sentimental to be as good as Gaskell's other major novels, it tells a compelling story and provides a sympathetic, fairly broad view of simple, small-town characters of different economic levels, social classes, and religious beliefs. Of particular interest is the respect and love between Dissenters and Church of England members.