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Ellen's grandmother is a wealthy, miserly woman who is
unfailingly bitter and vengeful. Her only desires seem to be power,
money, and revenge. Although she has seldom spoken to Ellen in her
life, she battles for her custody, as she wants to get back at Ellen's
father for the harm he has caused her daughter, Ellen's mother.
While Ellen had still been living with her father, she had hired
Rudolph and Ellis, Ellen's uncles on her father's side, to spy on
them and report back to her on their activities. She is exceptionally
underhanded and will do anything to get revenge on Ellen's father
for his abuse of her daughter, though she does not seem to care
that Ellen must suffer too. During Ellen's stay, she is vicious
and cruel, constantly berating Ellen for the likeness she bears
to her father, which, the novel's other characters imply, is not
true. Mama's mama is evil to the core, and it seems the only satisfaction
she gets is from treating Ellen like a servant, as she treats the
black workers who labor on the acres of land she owns. Indeed, she
does send Ellen to work the fields too.
Despite her cruelty, she is undoubtedly pathetic. This
aspect of her character is especially clear as she becomes weakened
by age and illness. She is pitiful prior to her illness because
she can only garner enjoyment from the misery she causes others,
and she is pathetic afterward because she must rely on Ellen to
care for her, whom she has treated as a slave and not as her own
granddaughter. However weak, she clings to her vendetta against
Ellen's father and continues to abuse Ellen emotionally. Her emotional
abuse of Ellen is so severe that she scars her permanently, causing
her to dig into her psyche and question her self- worth. She is
particularly abusive when she demands that Ellen not shed another
tear for her father's death. This demand illustrates her general
revulsion at the display of emotion, as it seems she has been sucked
dry of love and caring.