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Initially, I was disgusted with Ellen. I hated what she did to Viola and I couldn’t understand because I hadn’t read the novel at the time. Basically, I didn’t grasp onto her character and found her as a greedy brat.
And she is greedy. And with her backstory, is it any wonder she turned out the way she did?
Here we have Ellen, a young girl who is practically bed ridden with an unknown sickness (I don’t remember what was cited in the novels, but at the time of Ellen’s childhood, it was when medicine and sickness was a rather shaky branch).
This girl, seven years of age, is isolated from society because of her sickly appearance. Even her parents didnt’ give two shits about her.
It was implied (and I believe it was actually stated) that Ellen’s mother cared for Ellen simply out of pity. Caring for someone under a faux cover such as pity is not love. It is what it is - pity, feeling bad for someone but not necessarily caring to where they feel love for that person. It was when Ellen realized this and discovered her mother was not returning but rather living a “wealthier” life that caused her to kill her mother out of hurt, rage, and betrayal.
Then we have Ellen’s abusive father who acts as if she doesn’t exist. Even up to his death he refuses to even look at her. This, of course, drives Ellen to her breaking point and she kills him as well.
(made worse when you realize that the two ‘invisible beings’ in the cellars of the prison on the 3rd floor are actually her mother and father)
I feel the worst thing with Ellen is that, again, she’s seven years old when all this goes down. The innocence of that age is symbolized through the doll. The doll, created by her mother, was said to have beautiful hair and was clad in fancy clothes (or something along these lines). When Ellen looks at the doll and her mother, she laments but her longing/jealousy of their beauty is different from the “I wish I was pretty like mommy!”.
Ellen feels bitterness and jealousy towards her mother. She finds everything unfair, and in a way, it very much is. This is what separates Ellen from the typical 7 year old: She’s envious for very different reasons.
Now some may argue that Ellen was always fucked up in the head when she killed her mother and that there was no breaking point.
Let’s look at the black cat: She sees her hunting a mouse, killing it and running free. For her, it symbolized freedom. Seeing it dead gives her the energy to crawl out of bed and bury it. There was nothing that her parents did that made Ellen attempt something so rash. Simply put, Ellen’s front started to crack upon witnessing the black cat, her freedom, lying dead on the ground. To give it the burial it deserved, she buries it at the park.
Upon returning, her mother sees her covered in dirt and chalks it up as “oh Ellen can make it outside on her own so she’s okay”. She then disappears for months and... well, you know what follows.
So what keeps breaking Ellen’s mask? Her father ignoring her, coming home late and locking himself in his room (not sparing her a glance). And the care her mother gave her (even if it was out of pity) is gone. When her mother returns, she’s relieved because she thinks she’s going to be cared for, more importantly, receive the needed attention a young 7 year old girl needs from her parents. The events leading up to Ellen’s mother returning causes her to brutally murder her parents.
Following the killing, Ellen meets the Demon, controlling the body of the black cat she had buried.
Considering Ellen’s young age and desperateness for a new life, a body that doesn’t hurt, she agrees to do the Demon’s bidding.
From a personal perspective, I feel the Demon had a huge influence over Ellen’s personality, practically draining her of any sympathy she may have had. He holds the remedy to a body that doesn’t hurt out of Ellen’s reach, baiting her.
What makes this upsetting is Ellen’s willingness. And it’s shown in the novel that she actually does not like the Demon but is simply following his rule simply to get what she’s always desired.
Remember that Ellen is trapped with this Demon for centuries, doing his bidding by feeding him souls.
Could Ellen have felt sympathy and regret for killings in the beginning? Possibly, but the more the Demon brainwashed and influenced her, she had no choice but to put aside her emotions, turning her into a ruthless yet sly killer.
Now people wonder how 7 year old Ellen was able to trick 13 year old Viola... Again, Ellen was under the influence of the Demon longer than Viola’s been around. Through her experience, she’s probably developed manipulation tactics and an attitude that says “anything goes” when it comes to getting what she wants.
((And remember, Ellen is only 7 years old physically.))
My point is the hate Ellen receives needs more... support. Most of the distaste for her actions fall back on the Demon, not Ellen. As a young child, she is easily influenced and when she makes the pact, she’s no longer a child but the Demon’s puppet.
Yes, her actions and treatment of Viola was not fair to Viola or Viola’s father, but again, Ellen has spent centuries looking for a way out of her hellish sickness that she is willing to do anything. And I’m not excusing her; I’m saying that her actions were basically not human because she’s too far gone.
Does this mean I’m trying to invoke pity for Ellen? In a way, yes, but at the same time, I’m pointing out how many flaws she has as a fictional character.
If you think about it, Ellen is very realistic, and she’s symbolic of how desperateness can hurt not only yourself but others. Realistic traits don’t always have to come from protagonists. Giving these traits to the antagonist is what makes Ellen such a great character.