In the book Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, the main character Ellen is a young girl growing up in the south who tries to understand why her relationship is so complex with Starletta who is black. The pressure that Ellen?s family puts on her makes her think twice about her friendship with Starletta. In the final passage of Ellen Foster, Ellen says, ?I came a long way to get here but when you think about it real hard you will see that old Starletta came even further.? (Pg. 126) Ellen has arrived at a level of maturity based on her life struggles with racism and growing up.
The book Ellen Foster is very deceiving because Ellen appears to be an adult because of experiences such as having to give her mother pills when she is sick, cooking, paying the bills, and running the house hold, but she is really just a child. Ellen reads to escape and to keep her mind off of what is going on in her house. Reading allows her to hide in her own world and forget about everything else that is going on in her life. ?I could lay here and read all night. 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.? (Pg. 10) This proves Ellen is a child because a child doesn?t know how to deal with problems so they hide from them.
Ellen is also naive about the fact that when she went to go stay at her Aunt Betsy?s house for the weekend she thought that she was moving in forever. ?Home she says.? Aunt Betsy says. ?I say I told you I wanted to come and stay with you and you said fine. Now I am here and I got all my stuff that I brought from the other place back in the bedroom closet.? (Pg. 41) Ellen says. Ellen spends the entire book trying to find a loving family. In general, children who haven?t had the proper love and affection when they are young try to find a loving family to improve or chance their lives without love.
Throughout the book, Ellen struggles with ideas of racism. Ellen?s ideas come from her father?s friends and her grandmother. Ellen is a young girl who spends part of the book living with her father. Her father is friendly with black men who come over to the house and eat all the food and get drunk. Ellen dislikes these men because they try to rape her when they are drunk.
?You pray to God they forget about you and the sweet young things that are soff when you mashum and how good one feels when she is pressed up by you. You get out before one cane wake up from being passed out on your floor. You get out before they start to dream bout the honey pie and the sugarplums. Step over the sleeping arms and legs of dark men in shadows on your floor. You want to see light so bad that it comes to guide you through the room and out the door where a man stops you and the light explodes into a sound that your daddy?s voice.? (Pg. 37)
Ellen?s grandmother also plays into Ellen?s ideas about racism. Ellen?s grandmother has ?a colored woman just to cook and another one to make up your bed and dust the what-nots.?(Pg. 62) This proves that Ellen learned from her grandmother that blacks are supposed to work and whites were just supposed to relax and do nothing. Racism plays a role in the book because Ellen is trying to be friends with Starletta but is holding back. For example, Ellen goes to sleep over Star?s house she notes ?When I got up in the morning I was surprised because it did not feel like I slept in a colored house. I cannot say I officially slept in the bed because I stayed in my coat on top of the cover.? This shows that Ellen knows that it is alright to sleep in Starletta?s bed, but because of the ideas put in her head by her family she won?t sleep under the covers.
In the last passage of the book, Ellen finally grows up and realizes that she can be friends with Starletta despite what her family thinks. Ellen realizes that her struggles throughout life weren?t as bad as Starletta?s struggles. ?I came along way to get here but when you think about it real hard you will see that old Starletta came ever further?.I thought I had the hardest row to hoe. That will always amaze me.? (Pg. 126) She has come so far and can support Starletta in order to help her deal with societal pressure. This proves that Ellen has grown up because as a child she never would have been able to analyze her thoughts about Starletta?s problems the way she does in the final passage of the story.
In the final passage in Ellen Foster, Ellen says ?But as I lay in bed and watch my Starletta fall asleep I figure that if they could fight a war over how I?m supposed to think about her then I?m obligated to do it. It seems like the decent thing to do.? (Pg. 126) Ellen has matured throughout her short life. She has been a child trying to deny childhood in an effort to become an adult, but her issues with racism were stopping her from becoming a true adult. By the end of the book Ellen has finally grown up and decided that she values Starletta?s friendship despite the pressure put on her by family and society.