Homegoing

by

Yaa Gyasi

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Homegoing can help.
Fire Symbol Icon

Fire represents the pain that plagues the characters on the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) due to their family’s participation in the slave trade. Many of the characters are afraid of fire or are haunted by it. For example, Maame abandons her daughter Effia in the Fante village on the night she is born because of a raging fire, catalyzing a series of events that allows Effia to remain on the Gold Coast and eventually participate in the slave trade, while her sister, Esi, is eventually sold into slavery. Later in the novel, spurred by watching a white man tied to a tree and burned, Akua dreams of a woman made of fire holding two children. This dream ties back to Maame and her two daughters, representing how the slave trade destroyed one line of the family tree and cursed the other line. In her madness, Akua sets fire to her own hut, killing two of her children and permanently scarring her son, Yaw. At the end of the novel, Marjorie (Akua’s granddaughter) is also afraid of fire, but overcomes this fear with Marcus’s help, while she in turn helps him overcome his fear of water. The inheritance of this fear of fire mirrors the guilt and pain that the family passes down to each generation due to their participation in the slave trade.

Fire Quotes in Homegoing

The Homegoing quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Homegoing published in 2017.
Part 1: Effia Quotes

He knew then that the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children’s children for as long as the line continued.

Related Characters: Effia, Maame, Baaba, Cobbe Otcher
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Akua Quotes

In her dreams the fire was shaped like a woman holding two babies to her heart. The firewoman would carry these two little girls with her all the way to the woods of the Inland and then the babies would vanish, and the firewoman’s sadness would send orange and red and hints of blue swarming every tree and every bush in sight.

Related Characters: Effia, Esi, Akua / Crazy Woman , Maame
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Homegoing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Homegoing PDF

Fire Symbol Timeline in Homegoing

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Homegoing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Kojo
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...about ships because of it. Once, Poot had even saved his job, putting out a fire that Jo had started, which threatened to take down the entire boat. (full context)
Part 2: Akua
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...with their worries and problems. But when she sees a white man being swallowed by fire, she cannot let go of her nightmares. In her dreams, the fire is shaped like... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...under the tree had been picked up by the crowd, tied to a tree and burned. He had been shouting in English that he was only a traveler, and not from... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...day they cook for the men in shifts. At night, Akua continues to dream of fire. (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...is pregnant. One day while Akua is boiling yams, she finds herself staring at the fire. Nana Serwah catches her and shakes her out of her stupor. However, the same thing... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...Akua is grateful for the break, but when she sleeps, she continues to see the firewoman, who asks where her children are. The next day Akua tries to leave her hut,... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
...wanted her to repent. Akua asked where her body was; the Missionary said that he burned it. The Missionary had then fallen to the ground. Akua walked over his body to... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...begins to make love to her. Afterwards, Akua is able to sleep without dreaming of fire. She thinks that she’ll be alright, and when her son Yaw is born, she knows... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...beach once, but she had been mesmerized by it. In her dream, the ocean catches fire, and the firewoman beckons her into the ocean, holding the two fire children. She feels... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...begin to open. Ten men lift her above their heads. Her hands and feet are burned. They bring her out to a crowd of people, who call her wicked and evil... (full context)
Part 2: Yaw
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...had heard about his scar was this: his mother, Akua, had set the hut on fire while he and his sisters slept. Asamoah had only been able to save him and... (full context)