Learning experiences for Ellen and the responder
“Good novels include learning experiences for the characters and the reader.”
One such novel that demonstrates and emphasizes this quote is Kaye Gibbon’s novel Ellen Foster. Ellen Foster is a novel that combines the genres of bildungsroman and social realism giving voice to the character of Ellen. Ellen is an eleven year old living in the southern states of America. The year is 1970; Ellen and her family live in a tiny rundown house that is located within the coloured community. She lives with her mother who has rheumatic fever and her father a sever alcoholic who verbally and psychologically abuses Ellen and her mother. This upbringing causes Ellen to be neglected and left to fend for herself. In the novel Ellen learns that the colour of a persons skin is not important, she also learns that self reliance, hope and perseverance are essential for survival. The responder becomes socially aware of the society’s context and the incredible resilience and strength of the human spirit.
Ellen Foster includes learning experiences for the characters and the reader one learning experience is self reliance, hope and perseverance which are essential for survival. Ellen’s first eleven years are a long fight for survival. Her invalid, abused mother commits suicide, leaving Ellen to the mercies of her daddy, a drunken brute who either ignores her or makes sexual threats. Through her intelligence and grit Ellen is able to provide for herself, but her desperate attempts to create an environment of order and decorum within her nightmarish home are repeatedly foiled by her father. “I tried to make what we had at school but I found the best deal was the plate froze with food already on it. A meat, two vegetables, and a dab of dessert.” (pg 25)
Kaye Gibbons uses first person narration and vivid descriptions. The use of first person is shown through Ellen’s constant stream of consciousness; we get a sense of Ellen’s...