Celia, a Slave


Melton McLaurin

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The Fireplace Symbol Analysis

The Fireplace Symbol Icon

As a serious historical text, there are relatively few symbols in Celia, A Slave. One notable exception is the fireplace in which Celia disposes of the body of her owner and rapist, Robert Newsom, shortly after she kills him in self-defense. By the end of the night, all that’s left of Robert’s body are a few bones and fragments of clothing. It could be argued that the fireplace is an apt symbol for the process of history itself. Over time, the historical record deteriorates: given enough time, it becomes almost impossible for historians like McLaurin to know the full truth about Celia’s life and trial. Therefore, it becomes necessary for McLaurin to speculate on what really happened. The “fireplace of history” eliminates concrete evidence of the truth; it’s up to historians to reconstruction the truth from the fragments that survive.

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The Fireplace Symbol Timeline in Celia, a Slave

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Fireplace appears in Celia, a Slave. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Crime
Historical Silence Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...Robert Newsom. But then, she decides on a plan: she’ll burn Robert’s body in her fireplace, destroying any evidence that she killed him. Over the course of the night, Celia burns... (full context)
Historical Silence Theme Icon
The Political and the Personal Theme Icon
Slavery and Sexual Exploitation Theme Icon
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...and says she’ll give him a present if he carries the ashes out of her fireplace. This act, McLaurin says, clearly demonstrates the depths of Celia’s hatred for Robert. (full context)
Chapter 5: The Trial
Reform vs. Resistance Theme Icon
...two witnesses for the state are doctors who confirm that the ashes found in Celia’s fireplace most likely belonged to Robert Newsom. The state introduces into evidence Celia’s signed confession of... (full context)