Through distinctive features within a novel, exploration and an understanding of ideas upon human experience can be encompassed. The novel Ellen Foster written by Kaye Gibbons, portrays the ill-fated life of Ellen, an 11 year old girl mourning the death of her mother and living with the burden of her alcoholic father. The setting of this novel is 1970's southern states of America, where racial discrimination is a common practice and those of low social economic status are looked down upon by society. The relevant and controversial ideas and issues highlighted throughout, allows for an understanding upon society's values and racial tension of the time. Consequently, Gibbons cleverly emphasises that through family values and social attitudes, individuals can gain knowledge upon how distant larger families struggle to convey sanction and responsibility for their own, unless for their own social gain. Subsequently, the unique characterizsation Gibbons illustrates throughout her novel highlights the different aspects and opinions her characters convey giving the audience a view of life within her novel and life within the setting portrayed. It can be seen that within the text Ellen Foster, Gibbons gives an understanding through her distinctive features of her novel in giving exploration and insight upon human experiences. .
Within the text Ellen foster, Gibbons' explores societies' opinion upon different skin colour and how it destroyed families and resulted in hardship for members of the community. Despite clear racial discrimination at the time, the colour of an individual's skin was not seen as important to Ellen but instead, is what is on the inside that interests her. "My aunt is so glad to be out of coloured town. She unlocks her door now because she feels safe." Ellen's aunt conveys her opinion, highlighting the views of the majority of white society and their attitude towards the stigma of the "coloured people".