Ellen Foster, Racism

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In the book Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, Ellen is a lonely child. She is in a family where she is responsible for her mother’s health and receives little love from her parents. She has few outlets and is forced to suffer the many traumas of her life alone. She eventually gets away from her family only to find more unhappiness while continuing to observe the happiness of families surrounding her. And throughout the entire book she is yearning to belong and become loved. It took Ellen five moves and many hardships to find her true caregiver. But through her journey she forms a picture in her mind of what the perfect family should be like. Simultaneously she comes to understand herself better through her friendship with her black friend Starletta. Although Ellen finally realizes that she is wrong to feel superior to blacks throughout most of the book, Ellen’s racism keeps her from getting a family.

First, when Ellen visits Mavis’s family, she has grown more aware of racism but is still ignorant and fails to see that even though they have nothing physically they have everything emotionally. Mavis’s family was everything that Ellen wanted, but because they were black, the thought that they could take Ellen in, never crossed her mind. Ellen begins to eavesdrop on the ‘colored house’ so she can form a list of what she wants her family to be like. While she is watching Mavis’s family, she decides she wants ‘one of those’. Ellen thinks, “I had not figured out how to go about getting one but I had a feeling it could be got” (67). She knows that she wants a family like Mavis’s, one that is caring and one whose members love each other. However Ellen just doesn’t understand that money doesn’t buy love and happiness. Then Ellen continues saying, “I want one white with a little more money” (67). All the black families she knows are poor, but so happy. The only happy white family Ellen knows is Roy and Julia. Yet Ellen still seems to insist on a white family...
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