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Kaye Gibbons' Ellen Foster Essay

4039 words - 16 pages

Ellen, who is a young girl, lived with her sick mother and her alcoholic father. Her father was

very abusive, both mentally, physically and sexually. He was not the father that most read about in

story books. Her mother was sick with heart problems and was not very functional. Ellen was

convinced her dad would kill her and her mother. Ellen's mother took a bunch of pills and Ellen

tried to get her to vomit them up. Her father, who is not concerned at all, tells Ellen to let her be,

she would sleep it off. Ellen wanted to call for help but her father threatens to kill her if she does.

So Ellen sat with her mother until she passed. Ellen dealt with her hardships better than most

young girls. She became a heroine and became great at survival. She overcame great obstacles and

fights, against all odds, her way to happiness. The book is a work of fiction that mirrors Gibbons

own life. The story is narrated by Ellen herself. It is unusual for the subject of a story to also narrate.

Ellen uses different verb tenses, going back and forth from past to present.

Gibbons stressed that Ellen was afraid of her mother dying when Ellen would lie next to her

mom in bed and check to see if she was breathing. This showed that Ellen's fear of losing her

mother was intense. Gibbons repeats Ellen's fears that her dad would kill her several times in the

beginning as if to tell what happened next. This is how Gibbons built the beginning of the story up,

letting the reader know to expect something. In the novel, Ellen's mother was sick with heart

problems. Maybe Ellen's mother wanted to die because her husband's character was so mean.

When Ellen sat with her mother until she passed, this was terrible for a child; call for help so your

mom can live and Ellen die or let her mom die so Ellen can live. Gibbons demonstrates Ellen's

survival skills; she had to let her mother lie and die so Ellen could live on. Someone who is faced
Smith 2

with this choice may find themselves making a similar choice. “Ellen is a child seeking not so

much to thrive but to survive”(Wood 2).

Ellen suffered a lot of loss, with her mom overdosing, dad drinking himself to death and

grandmother dieing. This could have also been a metaphor for all the loss in Ellen's life

emotionally, physically and materialistically. She had thoughts of her dad murdering her and her

mother. She was consumed with death. Ellen confessed at the beginning of the book she had

thought of ways to kill her dad. Her life had to be so bad that she had homicidal thoughts. She had

went as far as planning the way it would be done. She never follows through, but thinking it out is

the closest thing to acting it out. She had to feel like she had no other option at one time. Someone

does not have these kind of thoughts unless they are backed into a corner and...

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