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Ellen Foster

Kaye Gibbons


Key Facts

Key Facts

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.

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