Arcadia

Fire Symbol Icon
Fire is a two-pronged symbol. On the one hand, fire relates to Thomasina’s discoveries about the second law of thermodynamics. She identifies that heat tends to leave a system, and won’t re-enter of its own accord. Heat, like jam stirred into rice pudding, only heads one direction—towards entropy and disorder. This contradicts Newton, whose physics only showed processes that can go in both directions. But before Thomasina can sort out the full implications of her discovery—is the universe doomed to end in disorder? Can the future be predicted?—she dies in a fire. Like the fire that consumed Alexandria’s library, all of Thomasina’s knowledge disappears, but ultimately, other scholars will rediscover her theories.
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Fire Symbol Timeline in Arcadia

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...asks what became of the hermit’s nonsensical papers, and Hannah explains that they were intentionally burned. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...disservice to women by being so irrationally driven by love. Thomasina mourns the destruction, by fire, of the library in Alexandria, which she blames on Cleopatra’s love-based politics, and the permanent... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...with math that the world would end. The article expresses the hermit’s ideas via a fire-based simile, “as a wooden stove that must consume itself until ash and stove are as... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...accidentally, and didn’t really know what it meant. Hannah reveals that Thomasina died in a fire before she had time to put her work out in the world, the night before... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...continue to waltz. Then Septimus lights her candle and tells her, “Be careful with the flame.” She wants him to come visit her in the night, but he won’t agree to.... (full context)