Kaye Gibbons Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Which parallels can be drawn between Kaye Gibbons’s life and the events in Ellen Foster?

Does Ellen appear to be a dynamic character (one who changes in the course of the narrative)? What evidence can be presented to justify this opinion?

What is the effect of the first-person narrators in Ellen Foster and A Cure for Dreams? Would the stories change significantly if told from another point of view? How is the theme of self-reliance evident in both of these novels?

What does Gibbons seemingly have to say about the function of men?

How can language, or the use of language, be seen as empowering in both of these novels?

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Kaye Gibbons is known almost exclusively for her novels. She has published two works of nonfiction, How I Became a Writer: My Mother, Literature, and a Life Split Neatly into Two Halves—A Nonfiction Piece (1988) and Frost and Flower: My Life with Manic Depression So Far (1995).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Kaye Gibbons is an award-winning writer. Her first novel, Ellen Foster, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988 and a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. For her second novel, A Virtuous Woman, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. In 1991, she received the Nelson Algren Heartland Award for Fiction given by the Chicago Tribune. For her next novel, A Cure for Dreams, she won a PEN/Revson Foundation Fellowship and a Sir Walter Raleigh Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. Also in 1991, she was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, France. Ellen Foster was made into a television movie and broadcast in 1997, and that same year the novel was selected, along with A Virtuous Woman, for Oprah’s Book Club.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Gibbons, Kaye. “Kaye Gibbons.” Interview by Bob Summer. Publishers Weekly 240, no. 6 (February 8, 1993): 60-61. Some biographical information about Gibbons is provided, with a discussion of her fourth novel.

Groover, Kristina K. “Re-visioning the Wilderness: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Ellen Foster.” Southern Quarterly 37, nos. 3-4 (Spring, 1999): 187-197. A comparative analysis of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Gibbons’s Ellen Foster.

Lewis, Nancy. “Kaye Gibbons: Her Full-Time Women.” In Southern Writers at Century’s End, edited by Jeffrey J. Folks and James A. Perkins. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997. Lewis addresses Gibbons’s notable leading ladies and characterization in general.

Mason, Julian. “Kaye Gibbons.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. A concise overview of Gibbons’s life and career through the writing of A Cure for Dreams.

Woods, Ralph C. “Gumption and Grace in the Novels of Kaye Gibbons.” The Christian Century 109, no. 27 (September 23-30, 1992): 842. An insightful, humanist look at Gibbons’s first three novels.