Unlike Pilate, who is strong-willed, Ruth is a subdued, quiet, upper-class woman. Ruth relies on Pilate for financial support. As a result, Ruth never develops into a strongly independent person. Until age sixteen, she was cared for by her father, Dr. Foster. After she married Macon Jr., he took care of her. Because she considers giving birth to Milkman her life accomplishment, some critics argue that Ruth represents the unliberated woman whose own goals are dictated by a sexist society.
However, Ruth does not always submit to the will of men. Ruth is less assertive than Pilate, but she exercises her will in more subtle ways. For instance, while Ruth was pregnant with Milkman, she and Pilate collaborated to ensure his safe birth despite the efforts of Macon Jr., who tried to force Ruth to abort the child. Pilate threatened Macon Jr. directly by storming into his office and leaving an impaled voodoo doll in his chair. Ruth’s evasion of Macon Jr. was more subtle. When Macon Jr. forced Ruth to stick needles into her womb in order to damage the fetus, she only partially inserted them, ensuring that Milkman remained unharmed. Furthermore, despite Macon Jr.’s seething anger over Ruth’s affection for her father, Ruth continues to visit his grave frequently. Her subtle independence makes her a foil for Pilate.