Love is the most telling theme in A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons. There are an untold number of examples of the power of love throughout the entire book. Ruby was raised in a loving family and experienced a great deal of happiness as a result. However, she discovered that love isn’t always as it appears when she marries a migrant worker. Her new husband is lazy and abusive and forces her to do manual labor. Ruby gets a second chance at love when her abusive husband dies and she meets Jack, a man who was interested in her. Ruby realizes the power of love at the same time that she realizes that she can love again when she decides to marry Jack and make a good live with him as her husband.
The love that surrounded Ruby as she was growing up prevented her from also realizing that there are people in the world who are not as they seem. This was the case with Ruby’s first experience with romantic love. She met John Woodrow and likened him to a movie star. At first she was captivated by his romantic nature but as time passed she came to understand that John didn’t really love her – he only loved to abuse her. Ruby’s second experience with romantic love occurs when Jack tells her that John has been stabbed and is in the hospital. Ruby doesn’t yet know that she will marry Jack but that night started something wonderful in her life.
A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons portrays the love that follows a person throughout life. Ruby experiences the great love of family as she grew up in a loving household with good parents and siblings. She was sheltered from the bad things in life but loved to dream about her future. She meets John Woodrow and her girlhood ideas of love seem to be coming true. She thinks she is loved by an incredibly handsome man and has romantic visions of travel and exciting experiences. Her ideas of romantic love are challenged when she realizes that John doesn’t really love her. She suffers abuse by his hands and only escapes the loveless marriage when John dies. Ruby proves the resiliency of human love when she trusts her instincts and marries Jack. Ruby desired the kind of love that she dreamt about as a girl and realized an opportunity to give love a second chance when she met and married Jack.
The book also shows the incredible amount of love that Jack had for Ruby. From the first time he met her and she stood up to him he knew he had found someone special. Regardless of her faults Jack loved Ruby very much. Jack loves her enough to overlook one fault in particular – smoking referring to “Ruby’s two ashy-smelling fingers” (Gibbons, 2). This is proven again in the beginning of the novel when Jack is eating food prepared by Ruby before she died. “She hasn’t been dead four months and I’ve already eaten to the bottom of the deep freeze. I even ate the green peas. Used to I wouldn’t turn my hand over for green peas” (Gibbons, 1). He remembers Ruby with love each time he eats one of her meals, including peas which he didn’t even like. Another example of how much Jack loved and missed Ruby occurred at night when Jack thought Ruby had returned to bed because he couldn’t roll over. He remembered that Ruby always slept on top of the covers which made it hard for him to turn over. He tried to entice her to return by washing the sheets and wearing his best pajamas and was very depressed when it didn’t happen again. This shows how much he really loved Ruby and how love is a power all its own.
Gibbons, Kaye. (1997). A Virtuous Woman. New York: Knopf Publishing Group.