Ruth’s close relationship with her mother-in-law and with her new family is comparable to the biblical Ruth, who tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, that she will travel with her wherever she goes and that “your people shall be my people.” Unlike the biblical story, though, no mention is ever made of Ruth Younger’s parents or siblings or background. We are never told from whence this Ruth has come before joining the Younger household.
Ruth is a “soft” personality type. She is not aggressive; she just lets life “happen” to her. She is the “worn-out wife” with a tedious, routine lifestyle. Hansberry describes Ruth as being “about thirty” but “in a few years, she will be known among her people as a ‘settled woman.'” Ruth has only simple dreams and would be content to live out her life being moderately comfortable. Her biggest dream blossoms only after Mama’s news of the possibility of their moving to a better neighborhood.
Ruth is easily embarrassed and tries too hard to please others. When George Murchison arrives in the middle of Walter and Beneatha’s frenzied African dance, Ruth is overly apologetic to George about their behavior. When Walter and Beneatha argue, Ruth asks Walter not to bring her into their conflict. And even though Ruth is annoyed by Lena’s (Mama’s) meddling, she still allows her mother-in-law to influence her at times about the correct way to raise Travis.
Very low key, Ruth reveals the most emotion when Mama tells her that they may not be able to move; it is only then that Ruth assertively expresses her views. Lacking education and sophistication, Ruth relies upon the suggestions, advice, and even what she thinks might be the wishes of others. She contemplates an abortion, for example, not because she wants to, but because she is worried about the additional burden she would bring to the family that she already has. Still, Ruth is not an “emotional weakling.” She never raises her voice (as Walter does quite often), but she exhibits a remarkable strength. With all of her economic and marital problems, Ruth never succumbs to despair. In her inimitable quiescence, she has a charming manner of always getting her way. She forces Travis to kiss her goodbye even though he is too angry at her to do so on his own. She persuades her mother-in-law to stop meddling with just one glance of disapproval. And she manages to save her marriage even when things look hopeless for the relationship.