Ellen Foster EssayA Perfect Couple Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons tells the story of a young girl who struggles to find a loving home environment. As she makes her way to the home of her dreams, Ellen experiences many difficult things and seeks comfort by reading. When Ellen reads Ernest Hemingway??™s In Our Time she ???meets??? Nick Adams, another individual who has to overcome unusual obstacles in his life, and concludes that he is the individual she would chose to love. Because of their similar circumstances during childhood, Nick Adams and Ellen Foster both developed similar traits and characteristics such as the belief that things need to be completed in a particular way, a need for control and stability, and a constant state of survival, which will enable them to better understand one another on a deeper, more meaningful level. Both Ellen Foster??™s and Nick Adams??™s parents created unusual and difficult circumstances for their children to live under, which caused each child to adapt a constant state of survival. Ellen??™s state of survival is focused around her physical heath because she lives with an abusive father and depressed mother who are unable to support her.
Neither parent has the capability to care for her. Her father is unable because he is an alcoholic and her mother because of her severe depression and later suicide. Because of this lack of parental help, Ellen is forced to become self reliant. At a young age, she becomes responsible for all her necessities and has to locate her own sources of food, clothes, and shelter. She is also given the responsibility for bill paying, illustrated when she must determine the amount of money necessary for ???the lights, gas to heat and cook, food, and extras??? (Gibbons, 25). In many instances, Ellen also has to undergo a role reversal and play the role of her mother??™s mother. This is demonstrated when Ellen tells her mother to ???get back into bed??? (6), something usually said by a mother to a daughter.
Nick??™s state of survival is focused on his mental and emotional stability because of the experiences his parents create for him. When Nick??™s father brings him to the Indian Camp, Nick is exposed to numerous horrific truths through the traumatizing events that transpire: hearing the Indian woman??™s piercing screams; witnessing her struggle in agony as she desperately attempts to push the child out; and seeing the bloody remains of an Indian man who commits suicide. We can assume that the gruesome incidents Nick witnessed during that visit forever changed him because he experienced them before he was mature enough to truly understand and process them. Nick??™s parents also bestowed a large burden on him with their own personal conflicts and disagreements.
They are two completely different individuals and have opposite points of view. This is demonstrated through their religious beliefs: ???she (Nick??™s mother) is a Christian Scientist and his father is ???a doctor??™??? (Hemingway, 26). Because these two perspectives are completely different, Nick??™s parents are unintentionally forcing him to take sides. This causes Nick to make decisions about his own beliefs and morals prematurely. He has not yet constructed a solid foundation nor acquired the knowledge and understanding about the topic to make a mature, intelligent decision for himself. Due to influential forces like the one??™s stated in the first body paragraph, both Ellen and Nick share the belief that things need to be completed in a particular way and under a specific set of rules and conditions.
Ellen is aware of the traditional way to celebrate the Christmas holiday. She knows that it is a joyful time designated for family, egg nog drinking, ornate Christmas decorations, delicious turkey dinners, and dreams of Santa Claus. Due to her personal circumstances, Ellen is not capable of celebrating in this customary way, however, she does her best to embrace them with what she has. For example, Ellen is left alone on Christmas, however, she replaces this void ???with ??? (real) people??™ drinking egg nog and decking the halls on ???her television set??™??? (Gibbons, 27). She is also left to celebrate Christmas without a delicious turkey feast and a belief in Santa Claus. She makes due by creating a makeshift meal, consisting of ???turkey sliced up with dressing along with two vegetables and a dab of dessert??? (27), and by purchasing her own Christmas presents, hiding them, and waking on Christmas morning surprised to see them.
Identical to Ellen, Nick also conducts things in a particular way, demonstrated in the short story ???Big Two-Hearted River: Part II??? when Nick goes fishing in a stream. Nick is unlike most fishermen. He does not treat his livelihood as only a means to earn a profit, but rather, as a way of life. Because of his outlook, Nick treats both the act of fishing and the fish with integrity and respect. This is demonstrated when Nick ???wet his hand before he touched the trout, so he would not disturb the delicate mucus that covered it??? (Hemingway, 149). Nick also perceives the fish as an honorable prize, meant to be earned. He believes that the fish must be obtained by skill rather than luck.
This is why Nick does not keep the fish when his leather line breaks. In his mind, he failed and taking the fish would be unjust and cheating. Both Ellen and Nick need a sense of control, however, their childhoods have been unstable, so they are forced to break from their troubled lives and escape into new ones. Ellen??™s life has always been dictated by outside forces and other individuals. For instance, she couldn??™t choose her parents, nor could she prevent looking like her father, causing her mama??™s mama??™s disdain and hatred. Knowing she couldn??™t sustain this awful life, Ellen made numerous attempts to escape to a different, more nurturing environment. However, her efforts always ended unsuccessfully because others intervened, believing that they knew best. This is illustrated through the courtroom scene, when Ellen is forcibly removed from her happy life with Julia and Roy.
She??™s transported to her mama??™s mama??™s house because ???he (the judge) said he had grandchildren of his own and could certainly understand her (mama??™s mama??™s) point (of wanting Ellen)??? (Gibbons, 55). Ellen ultimately succeeds in relocating to a permanent, safer, and more joyful home after her mama??™s mama??™s death. While living with her Aunt Nadine, Ellen and her Aunt become engaged in an argument, Aunt Nadine makes it clear that she wants Ellen off her hands and out of her home. Ellen takes advantage of this opportunity and makes her escape by traveling to new mama??™s house. This positive environment allows her to build a foundation for a good life, something she has always wanted.
We witness how this lack of control in her past continues to affect Ellen in the present when she makes the terrarium with her new mama. It had been a long time since Ellen has lived in an unstable environment, yet, as she examines the terrarium, she is disturbed. The confinment of the terrarium reminds her of the past, causing her to revisit some old feelings of fear and anxiety. This is demonstrated through new mama??™s reaction of ???Ellen Are you alright??? (35) Similar to Ellen, Nick??™s struggles also arise from others, however, his struggles originate not from specific people, but from the opinions and perspectives of the 1920s society.
Men were expected to be tough and strong at all times. These male attributes are thrust upon Nick at a very young age and at a time when he is not prepared for them. This is demonstrated when Nick feels that his masculinity is being threatened during his relationship with Marjorie. Although he loves her, demonstrated by their prior engagement plans, he concludes that he needs to end their relationship because of societies ???unspoken rules???. This can be seen through the comment Nick makes to Bill when he says ???all of a sudden everything was over. I don??™t know why it was. I couldn??™t help it??? (Hemingway, 47). Because society??™s wishes are so challenging for him to follow, Nick attempts to get away by stowing on a train, headed away from his native town.
We witness Nick??™s final escape from society in ???Big Two-Hearted River: Part I??? and ???Part II???. During this escape, he returns to the base of foundation and traveled into the wilderness to live as a recluse; away from society and all predisposed notions on ???the right way to be???. Ellen spent most of her young life searching for love, understanding, and acceptance.
Through Nick??™s similar childhood and adolescent struggles, Ellen discovers a deep connection with him; a connection that would allow Nick to embrace her unconditionally. Ellen??™s and Nick??™s stories depict two people who are lost and trying to find their way. They each have a goal centered around finding unconditional love, regardless of any hardships and confusion along the way. Because of these similar aspirations, Nick is undoubtably Ellen??™s soul mate. They share the same values, priorities, and void, something that Nick would be able to fill for Ellen in the same way that Ellen would be able to fill for him.
Their passion for what is true and their quest for the ultimate gift- love- make Ellen and Nick each other??™s ultimate destination in their continuous search for love and understanding. Their separate lives would combine into one, not only connecting them but also giving Ellen the happiness she has always desired.