The Theme Of Ellen Foster Essay, Research Paper
Ellen Foster is the compelling story of a young girl who is thrust into reality at avery early age. Written by Kaye Gibbons, the novel is a documentary of the saga ofgrowing up. It is a recurring theme, growing up, depicted through many events over thecourse of this girl s childhood. This growing up theme is evident through the experiencesshe has, as well as the many hardships she faces. Ellen s awkward situation of two dead parents forces her to lose her innocence ata young age, and mature much faster than any other person her age. This is shown throughher in-depth observations about the world and people around her, such as He was a bigwind up doll of a man. This metaphor depicts her father, a lazy drunk who dies early inthe book, probably from alcohol poisoning. Her life with him is one of constant fear andhatred. She blames him for the death of her mother, who overdoses on heart medicine toescape from her life. His drinking habits take over his life, and Ellen is left at home alone,sometimes for days at a time, to fend for herself. This is only one of the many hardshipsshe must face. After her father s death, Ellen is forced to move from house to house. Sheis miserable in all of them, but they are still better than what she had to put up with before.When she finally does reach a house which she likes, her aunt Betsy kicks her out after theweekend, telling her that Ellen was only meant to visit for two days. The torment shereceives is not limited to her father. Relatives like her aunt Nadine, who blames everythingher daughter Dora does on Ellen, instead of paying her the attention and love she needs,toss her around like an Christmas fruitcake no one wants. These events, though somewhatexaggerated in Ellen s life, are all a part of growing up. Unbearable parents, relatives youcan t stand, being betrayed by someone you care about, they are all part of life, and lifelessons. Equally important in growing up are friendship, prejudice, and death, all of whichare present in the childhood of Ellen Foster. Her friendship with a black girl namedStarletta is a subject of much controversy. Not controversy with other people, but
controversy within Ellen s own mind. Her feelings towards her best friends are contortedby society s acceptance of other races. This is a common thing among younger people.Not necessarily among races, but more along the lines of good kids versus bad kids.Society s perception of who s good and who s bad really affects a child s perception ofwho they should or shouldn t be seen with. Ellen at the beginning of the book is somewhatashamed of Starletta, because she eats dirt, and also feels sorry for her because she onlyhas a one room house, and doesn t even have an inside the house toilet. As the storyprogresses, Ellen s opinions twist and turn until she reaches the conclusion If they couldfight a war over how I m supposed to think about her then I m obligated to do it. This isevidence for her evolution as a person, or growing up. Her views of the world mature at ayoung age, as does she. Work is also an important part of growing up. Ellen gets her firsttaste of real manual labor when she moves in with her grandmother, who feels a deepresentment for Ellen, because she blames her and her father for Ellen s mother s death.She immediately puts Ellen to work in the cotton fields with Mavis and the rest of theworkers. With the help of Mavis, she is able to quickly adapt and work just as well and asfast as anyone else. This adds to the speed of her maturing, and gives her time to think.This work also adds to one of the deepest and Ellen s most profound line in the book, And all this time I thought I had the hardest row to hoe. This quotation shows herunderstanding of the life she has come to accept. She realizes now that although her lifehas been the pits, there is someone who could have had it worse off. Ellen s fictional pre-adolescence, though much harsher, is essentially the same asthat of any child. She experiences the same confusion and events as any other regularchild, but to a much greater extent. Also, she is much more aware of her emotions, and isvery capable of expressing them. All in all, her life really isn t that different from any other,and is a metaphor for growing up.