Ruth Washington is easy to underestimate. While she may look elderly and frail, she is a woman of firm opinions. G. H. knows from experience that his wife always has a ready answer. As morally grounded as her husband, Ruth understands her duty to help Amanda and Clay when their children are in danger even though she remembers only too well the shock and disbelief on their faces when they opened the door to find a Black couple standing there. She is less easily taken in than G. H. For example, she knows full well that Danny, their contractor, doesn’t see them as friends, only as clients. She is also less forgiving than G. H. of the racism exhibited by Amanda and, to a lesser degree, Clay. She likes order and is disgusted by the mess the renters have made of her beautiful kitchen. She is also very aware of gender roles, and questions whether she has come to enjoy cooking and cleaning simply because society expects it of her.  

Ruth’s major preoccupation is with her absent daughter and grandsons. Because of her own maternal feelings, she can’t help but feel sympathy for Amanda when Archie becomes ill and Rose disappears. However, she resents Amanda for not recognizing that she is desperately worried about her own daughter and in need of reassurance. But Ruth can’t withhold empathy, and she understands that in this emergency, all they have is one another.