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Ruby is both a role model and a friend for Ada. As a strong-willed, practical
woman with keen insight, Ruby initially serves as a foil for the
dreamy, intellectual Ada. (A foil is a character that reveals the distinctive
traits of another character through contrast.) Ruby’s store of knowledge
about the natural world teaches Ada to look outward from herself,
and to interact with the surrounding environment. Ruby personifies
many of the novel’s themes about living close to nature, moving
at pace with its seasons, and establishing a close relationship
with the land. However, Ruby’s role grows more substantial as Ada’s
character matures. As Ada develops into a strong friend and co-worker,
the women’s friendship becomes increasingly sisterly and profound.
Just as Ada learns about practical life from Ruby, Ruby in turn
learns from Ada, listening to the classic literature the older woman
reads aloud and following her lead when it comes to expressing emotion
(although emotional honesty does not come easily to Ada either).
Resolutely levelheaded and self-sufficient, Ruby begins to let go
of past resentment, particularly towards her father, and reclaims
her faith in love.
Ruby’s development within the novel, though not as dramatic
as Inman’s or Ada’s, is far-reaching and profound. Ruby evolves
from a girl into a natural mother figure. The novel charts her transition from
someone who could function successfully outside of society as a
hermit (she is similar in many ways to the goat-woman) to a woman
who appreciates having her whole family living and working beside
her. She is a matriarchal figure who keeps her husband and father
in check without being too domineering. Ruby becomes the tie that
binds her family together.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Mountain!