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Ellen Foster

Kaye Gibbons

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Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Summary

When she finds her grandmother dead, Ellen immediately calls the undertaker, and then Nadine and Betsy, who sound put out that their mother has died so close to the busy Christmas holiday. Nadine comes over right away, and when she sees the frame of fake flowers that Ellen has strewn around her grandmother, she scolds her. Ellen has framed her grandmother's body with the flowers so that the Lord will be more apt to welcome her into Heaven, though she thinks that Jesus will see through the false smile she wears on her face. Betsy and Nadine fight over which one of them is to blame for their mother's illness, and Ellen is glad that, for once, she is not being held responsible for another family member's death.

Ellen packs up her few belongings and moves to live with Nadine and Dora. On the way to their house, Ellen feels lonely as she remembers how she would spy on Mavis and take note of her family. She wishes there were a store where she could purchase a home.

Ellen does not go to her grandmother's funeral because she feels that she has seen enough of death. Dora warns Ellen not to go in her room while she is at the funeral, and, thus, Ellen spitefully hunts around in Dora's room while she is gone, though she does not find anything surprising or scandalous. Both Dora and Nadine treat Ellen with distance and condescension, and Ellen declares that she will leave her room only to eat, go to school, and take phone calls, as she is disgusted not only by their attitude towards her, but by the convenient lies they tell themselves for comfort. She is determined to live a better life and knows she is deserving of it.

It pains Ellen to ask for new clothes, but she must, as she has outgrown her wardrobe. Nadine gives her a bit of money, and Ellen takes herself shopping. While in the store, Ellen makes a conscious effort to look earnestly, and eventually finds a dress she thinks is the most beautiful dress she's ever seen. When she puts on the dress and looks at herself in the mirror, she thinks she could fall in love with herself and takes the dress as the first sign that her luck is changing for the better. Surely enough, the following Sunday, during church, Ellen sets her sights on her new mama. While everyone is praying, Ellen looks at her new mama, then up at the Lord to thank him for sending her the dress, because in it, she looks like she is worth something. After the service, Ellen asks Dora about her soon-to-be new mama, and Dora tells her that she will take in anything from "orphans to stray cats," which sounds good to Ellen.

As expected, Ellen's new mama welcomes Starletta and even ensigns the letter "S" on a set of towels, per Ellen's request. Ellen wants more than anything to repay Starletta for all of the kindness she showed her when they had been closer friends. She spreads her own rumor in the lunchroom that Starletta is coming over to stay at her house that night and takes special care to ensure that Dora finds out.

Analysis

Throughout the novel, Ellen has very few of her own possessions, for each time she moves, she tosses her belongings into a cardboard box, as she does before leaving to stay with Nadine and Dora. Material possessions have little value and little importance to Ellen; the one thing Ellen wants is what she cannot seem to have—a loving home. On her way to Nadine and Dora's house, Ellen wishes that there were a store where she could buy such a home, though she must eventually learn that money cannot buy love. Indeed, Ellen has tried to pay for love, first offering a dollar to Starletta's mother in exchange for one night's stay and safety, and later, to her new mama for her care and attention. Also, Ellen has already learned from her miserly grandmother that wealth does not necessarily equal happiness. Despite what she has learned in the past, Ellen's foremost need is for a stable, loving home, and the only way she knows how to attain it is to pay for it, as she has learned to do with everything else.

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CHAPTER 13 QUIZ

What does Ellen scatter around her grandmother’s dead body, prompting Nadine to reprimand her?
Fake flowers
Coins
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