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Ellen Foster Essay, Research Paper

Ellen Foster, the character in Kaye Gibbons’ novel Ellen Foster, is a young girl that is struggling to survive and find her way in the world. Ellen is deprived of a normal childhood. Her life as a child is extremely hard, physically and emotionally. She never had a mother or father to take care of her throughout her youth. Ellen is able to accept her difficult childhood as normal by blocking out her problems since she is not accustomed to anything else. Any normal child would suffer mentally, but Ellen develops strength through her obstacles.

The fact that Ellen is a child she performs adult chores proves somewhere inside of her she has strength to carry on with her life. Ellen’s mother commits suicide and she left to take care of not only herself, but her drunken father as well. She does not even think twice about paying bills and preparing food for herself she also attends school without the assistance from anyone. Ellen has the unique strength and courage to continue with life the harder it becomes. I believe Ellen obtains some of her inward strength from ignoring and blocking her problems from herself temporarily. She still feels pain from her mother’s death and expresses how she does not want speak about her mother . She says, “When it came my turn to talk and tell all I marched myself right back out of the library room and out the doors”(24).

However, after this incident, Ellen walks home with her best friend Starletta, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. This demonstrates how she still feels pain but blocks it out and carries on with life.

Ellen continues to find strength in her constantly changing home life. The abuse that she suffers at the hands of her drunken father ultimately allows her to live with her teacher. Ellen begins to experience life as a normal child would. Her painful memories of her father are still hidden in her mind and slip out from time to time. Ellen states, “Once I got him in my head it was hard to shake him out”(48). Even though she thinks about him she continues to show her strength and the care she receives from her teacher makes life for Ellen easier. Her living arrangement shifts once more is forced to live with her grandmother who at times expresses deep hatred for Ellen. Ellen realizes this and says, “Some days I felt like I was in a torture chamber and counted the days until school”(63). Her grandmother even forces her to do manual labor over the summer in a cotton field. Ellen manages to hold her head high and even makes a friend with a coworker through the hot summer days. Ellen seems to make the best out of a horrible situation and continues to find strength everyday.

Ellen has a dream keeping her spirit alive. She even makes a list of what her “ideal family” would be like. Ellen says, “I had not figured out how to go about getting one but I had a feeling it could be got”(67). Her dream of a perfect home gives Ellen the extra stamina to continue on when times seemed rough. Her grandmother dies while she is living there and again Ellen is shuffled to another household. Ellen stays with her Aunt Nadine, which for the most part she enjoys. However, her cousin Dora is the apple of her Aunt’s eye and this bothers Ellen. Dora is also a very snobby girl which bothers Ellen so much she wants to revolt. For the first time in her life Ellen realizes how strong she really is and makes a stand for herself. Her verbal argument with her family is a turning point that sends her to ultimate happiness even though Ellen is not aware of it at the time.

Ellen finds her happiness in her foster mother’s house. Ellen moves for the last time in to a foster home . Her foster mother gives Ellen everything that she ever wanted in a family. She slowly begins to heal from her past experiences. Ellen’s strength gives her a new out look on life. She even says, “Two years ago I did not have much of anything. Not that I live in the lap of luxury now but I am proud for the schoolbus to pick me up here”(2). Ellen’s strength helped pull her through hard times and gives her the power to stand on her own ground and overcome her painful childhood.

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