English 1 (C)
17 November 2011
Ellen Foster: Rescue and Salvation Ellen Foster, written by Kaye Gibbons, is a novel about the traumatizing events in the life of an eleven year old girl named Ellen Foster, and how she copes with those events. Ellen grows up in a family where her father is abusive, and suffers from the disease of alcoholism. Ellen’s mother is physically and emotionally damaged because of all the abuse she has received from her husband, so she can not care for Ellen. Ellen cannot deal with this kind of pain on her own. She finds certain things that will allow her to escape the mental and physical pain from her father, and her life. Because Ellen Foster is exposed to alcoholism and abuse throughout her childhood, she needs to be rescued, so she resorts to reading books, and her best friend Starletta and Starletta’s family. Ellen uses reading as a way to escape not only her father’s actions, but also the thoughts and memories of her father. Without books, Ellen would constantly be thinking of her father. Ellen needs something to do when her father comes home drunk and is in a very abusive state. Ellen says,“ I am not able to fall asleep without reading. You have that time when your brain has nothing constructive to do so it rambles. I fool my brain out of that by making it read until it shuts off. I just think it is best to do something right up until you fall asleep” (10). Reading rescues Ellen. Without keeping things on her mind, she will not be able to escape the fact that her father could come home drunk at any moment, and lash out at her or her mother. Reading protects Ellen from mental abuse, but it also protects her from the physical abuse her father does to her. At school Ellen has a very close bond with her library teacher. Ellen’s teacher cares for Ellen and allows her to check out any book she wants. Ellen says, “ I had liked the teacher. The only reason for ever going to school had been to check out books and scratch her back during rest time” (24). Ellen has a place to go where she is provided with care. Being with someone who cares for her while reading, keeps Ellen safe of her father. Ellen has never been provided with this type of care due to the fact that her mother did not have the strength to do so, and her father was an alcoholic. After Ellen’s father passes away Ellen says, “ So I try to keep my head pretty full at all times. But as soon as a spare room opens up in there here comes somebody like my daddy settling in thinking he might make himself right at home” (102). Even after Ellen’s father has passed away she still fears the memories of the destruction her father has done to her life. Reading serves as a barrier from the memories of her father.
Reading books is not the only thing that rescues Ellen from the pain she suffers, she also has her one friend Starletta and Starletta’s family that offer a place where she can go to escape. At Ellen’s mama’s funeral, Ellen must stay with her family, but when she sees Starletta, she has no stronger desire then to go sit with her. Starletta’s family is more of a family to Ellen, than her own biological family. Starletta’s family has colored skin. Ellen is racist, and believes that colored people are very dirty, but in this case she would risk the germs to get away from her family. Ellen writes, “ But I see Starletta and she looks clean. I wish I could sit with her and her mama and daddy” (20). Although Ellen’s family members are biologically related to her, she does not receive the unconditional love