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“Celia behind Me” is a Canadian short story, which was written by Isabel Huggan and published in 1984. The setting of the short story is a typical neighborhood in Canada, where two girls, Celia and Elizabeth, are living. The short story is written from Elizabeth’s point of view.
The title ‘Celia behind me’ is exactly what it says; Celia is always behind the narrator, Elizabeth, whether it’s in school, on the way home or in their community. Celia is always a few steps behind. Ex. Celia is in the grade below Elizabeth, she always walks just a few steps behind Elizabeth on the way home, and Elizabeth is only a smidge better than Celia in her social circle.
Celia is a diabetic and obese girl; she wears thick glasses and has a rare name, which always makes her classmates mock her. She is an easy victim for humiliation, because she is different from her classmates in both behavior and appearance.
She really wants to be a part of the popular group and make friends, but it is almost impossible for her, as she is expelled from her classmates’ community.
Celia is always alone, even though she very well could be a very nice, and sensible, girl.
She only tries to get along, but unfortunately she seems to be so desperate, that her behaviour annoys her classmates. No matter what she does, she is always the selected scapegoat. The teasing only gets worse, after she falls behind in school and has to do the entire grade all over again.
Elizabeth is a young girl and the story’s narrator. Elizabeth is very uncertain about herself, and she is afraid of being bullied, so she tries to be a part of the clique with her classmates, and being in the clique means, that Elizabeth has to be the bully. Her clique victimizes Celia. Elizabeth is aware of the reality; if it wasn’t for Celia, she would be the next in the line of being humiliated by her so called friends. She bullies Celia as a way to guard her reputation and place in the clique.
Elizabeth knows what it feels like to be a victim of bullying, and she is scared. She sucked her thumb openly in kindergarten and got the nickname: “Sucky”, which everybody called her until Grade 3. She ignores Celia’s feelings, because she has a very low self-confidence and feels alone, so she won’t face the risk of standing up to her mean classmates. She doesn’t feel peace inside herself, which makes her very frustrated.
(P. 3 ll. 60-66) “Little beasts we were, making our way along slippery streets. Celia, her glasses steamed up even worse than mine, would scuffle and trip a few yards behind us, and I walked along wishing that some time I’d look back and she wouldn’t be there. But she always was, and
I was always conscious of the hatred that had built up during the winter, in conflict with other emotions that gave me no peace at all.”
Elizabeth abhors Celia, because she knows deep down inside, that they have a lot in common. They both wear glasses, they are both a little chubby and they both have a rare, way too grown-up name. It is obvious, that Elizabeth’s worst fear is to be singled out with Celia, because she will not be able to deal with being a victim.
The girls control Elizabeth’s behavior, because they can expel her from their clique, and treat her like they treat Celia. The girls really are very poor in solidarity, and they leave no place for differences.
Elizabeth’s mother warns her about the way she treats Celia, telling her that she herself will get to feel that way in the future.
One day Elizabeth falls behind on the way home from school, Celia is still following them around, and when Celia calls for Elizabeth to wait, the girls turn on Elizabeth. They start calling her ‘Sucky’ and doing what Elizabeth fears most; they bully her like they do Celia. Elizabeth snaps, and starts beating the living daylight out of Celia, yelling at her how much she hates her. When the other girls get her pulled of Celia, Elizabeth runs.
(P.6 ll. 164) “She’d been half-carried; half-dragged home by the heroic others……”
I think it is kind of ironic, that the mean, bullying clique of girls carry Celia home, because a few minutes earlier, before Elizabeth attacked Celia, they had left Celia wandering around alone and scared in the pipe. That is a testimony of how fake girls can be.
Celia being the way she is forgives Elizabeth very quickly, but even as Celia dies at seventeen, Elizabeth never really does forgive Celia. Because what Celia has done to Elizabeth is a lot worse than a physical beating, Celia is the one that showed Elizabeth, how ark and frightening she really is.
The short story’s main theme is bullying, which clearly reflect all trough the story. The more original thing in the story is that we experience the occurrences in Elizabeth’s perspective.
Normally you would follow the story in the victim’s point of view, but is more interesting and provoking, to follow the mind of the “mean” character, like for example Elizabeth.