Ellen Foster Essay

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In the following excerpt, critic Veronica Makowsky explores Kaye Gibbons's use of food as a major metaphor to describe the main character of Ellen Foster as she develops in Gibbons's novel of the same name.

Ellen Foster is Gibbons's attempt to rewrite the saga of the American hero by changing "him" to "her" and to rewrite the southern female bildungsroman by changing its privileged, sheltered, upper-class heroine to a poor, abused outcast.... Ellen faces the psychological and spiritual problems of growing up, but she must also confront sexual abuse, homelessness and, above all, hunger....

The novel opens with ten-year-old Ellen trying to shield her sick mother from her father's abuse. Ellen's mother has just returned from the hospital for treatment of the chronic heart condition she acquired in her youth from rheumatic fever, which Ellen calls "romantic fever." Ellen's malapropism is actually quite accurate since her mother married...

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This section contains 2,573 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Ellen Foster Study Guide
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Ellen Foster from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.