full title · Ellen Foster
author · Kaye Gibbons
type of work · Novel
genre · Modern fictional narrative
language · English
time and place written · Late 1980s; Raleigh, North Carolina
date of first publication · 1987
publisher · Vintage Books
narrator · The character of Ellen Foster
point of view · The narrator speaks in the first person throughout the entirety of the novel and gives a subjective view of all other characters introduced.
tone · Ellen's narration is consistently subjective and informal, as it is written in the language of an eleven year old who has grown up in the southern United States. Throughout the novel, Ellen employs colloquialisms, slang, and humor to tell her story.
tense · Frequently shifts in tense from present to past; description of the past is being relayed in hindsight from the present.
setting (time) · Mid to late 1970;s
setting (place) · Southern United States, probably North Carolina
protagonist · Ellen Foster
major conflict · Ellen continually suffers abuse by her neglectful caretakers and searches for a stable home and loving family.
rising action · Ellen is placed in a number of temporary homes, all of which are unhappy, and she longs for a home where she is loved and cared for.
climax · Ellen is expelled from Nadine's home on Christmas day for being disrespectful.
falling action · Ellen is welcomed into her new mama's home and has at last found the loving family for which she has yearned and so deserves.
themes · Determination despite adversity; self-consciousness and self-criticism; transcending ignorance through social awareness
motifs · Food; death; God and the afterlife
symbols · Storm and rain; the ocean; Ellen's cat painting
foreshadowing · Just before her mother commits suicide, Ellen senses that a terrible storm is coming, which foretells the nightmarish abuse and trauma she is soon to suffer at the hands of her father and other relatives.