During the course of the book, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, the reader becomes acquainted with the mean character's, Ellen, personality. Ellen has so many characteristics and traits that make her such a complex character. Some of the adjectives that describe Ellen were her street smarts, her racism, and her artistic abilities.
The first characteristic is Ellen's street smarts, which started when she was younger. Neither her mother nor father took very good care of her. Her mother was fatally ill and her father was an alcoholic. Ellen would have to help her mother do everything when she came back from the hospital. "We peel her dress and slip on something to sleep in-(5). Doing so much for her mom forced Ellen to have to fend for her self and gain knowledge of the real world. By doing so this helped to create her street smarts.
Ellen's racism also showed many times throughout the book. It wasn't a hateful racism but one in which she thought she was superior to the African-Americans. As a matter of fact, her best friend, Starletta, was black. Early on in the book Ellen often referred to Starletta as if she was dirty and carried an infectious disease. "As fond as I am of all three of them (Starletta's family), I don't think I could drink after them"(29). Despite her negative feelings towards Starletta, over the course of the novel her opinions change and she really starts to love her. "But as I lay in that bed and watch my Starletta fall asleep-(126). This definitely shows Ellen's change in outlook on Starletta.
Finally, artistic ability is one of Ellen's favorite traits. She uses art to take her mind off of her problems. Julia and Roy, one of the many families she stayed with, introduced her to art. The art brought her to a different world, her own world, where she could imagine anything. Her love toward art shows when Julia and Roy give her a birthday gift, "By god they are oil paints"(52).