Aunt Nadine is the antagonist - or blocking character - in this story. She is a selfish and pretentious woman who resents having to care for Ellen and does nothing to try to make Ellen feel welcome or to understand her. Ellen has been left alone in the world, and she wants a feeling of connection and togetherness. A place to belong. Aunt Nadine, with the assistance of her daughter Dora, work to prevent that.
Ellen's "new mama", the Foster family mother, is the woman who best helps Ellen acheive what she wants. She accepts Ellen into her home, nurtures her with attention and love, and allows her to be an equal in the household. Ellen starts to live what she considers to be a real life, having friends over to her home and a family structure that is safe.
In addition to this woman, there is the art teacher Julia, who is kind to Ellen and gives her hope of better things to come. Starletta, Ellen's best friend, gives her a sense of belonging. Also, Starletta's family provide the example for what Ellen most wants.