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Author Kaye Gibbons
Type of work Novel
Genre Modern fictional narrative
Time and place written Late 1980s;
Raleigh, North Carolina
Date of first publication
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
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.