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“Celia’s Song” by Lee Maracle: Analysis of Novel

The manner in which the women organized in the face of adversity is highly descriptive of their character. Upon hearing the abominable news about Shelley, Momma was able to keep herself as cold-headed as possible in such a situation. This inspired a similar state of mind in other women: despite all of them having different levels at which they could lose their cold-blooded spirits, they all worked as a unified mechanism for the entirety of the night. In the same way, they organized together, not even being truly aware of what had happened, yet feeling deeply intervened and obligated to provide help. In Momma’s own words, it is a matter of uttermost importance, since an instance of such a vile act of savagery was committed towards an innocent small girl in their community. Later in the chapter, a momentous idea is expressed by Momma when she says that there is “no word to describe this man’s behavior in our language”, so repulsive it is (XIV). The doubt about whether or not the girl will survive is in the air; as is the thought of what kind of justice would be suitable for this offender to endure.

That feeling intensifies as the night grows old – however, the women continue to work as one. Evidently, most of the group’s effectiveness and emotional stability can be attributed to Momma. She is clearly the leader and knows the most out of all the women. It was her who canceled conflicts between the women at the time of summoning. Momma was so utterly convinced that Shelley is “only going to make it if someone talks her through every second in a golden-throated Gramma voice – a voice free of rage and hate” (XIV). She instructs Martha to forget about the anger she has at Stella – and tells her that if Shelley does not survive, “she will never be able to live with herself” (XIV). The collective strength that Momma inspires in the women of the village is, certainly, outstanding. However, the manner in which every woman is able to play her part in caring for Shelley in spite of them largely not knowing what to do shows a unique quality of spiritual receptiveness of indigenous women.

The relationship between Stacey and Steve is certainly not a simple one. Definitely, it might have been considered “simple” in a sense that for a long time, it was not demanding of any kind of emotional commitment of either of them – especially for Stacey. Initially, the relationship had started having no commitments or constraints – although, she had realized the limitations it entailed later. Certainly, it could be characterized as being consumptive from both ends: however, Stacey’s situation is drastically different from Steve’s, despite them both being divorced parents at the time of their conversation.

It could be said that the relationship was destined to be doomed from the beginning. The mere possibility of it lasting so long lies in the style where each party asks nothing of the other one, yet each one receives exactly the kind of relief and comfort they long for. Their relationship can be described as open, relaxed, and having no commitments. Even after ten years, Stacey is not sure whether or not she truly loves Steve – and she probably does not – because she characterizes him as being “comfortable” (XVII). The end to all of this is put when Steve decides to propose to Stacey – in that instance his true intentions come to the surface.

It is crucial to understand that Stacey is an indigenous woman; an indigenous woman she will always remain. The problem is, that Steve is unable to understand her in the entirety of her persona – he cannot relate to the struggles and culturally-sensitive situations that she experiences or has gone through in the past. He does not understand because the realities of her people are just topics for him to dispute over, exhibiting his humanness. Therefore, it is hard to reference their relationship as an example of a positive interracial union – Steve does not take her as seriously as he would treat a white woman, and Stacey is hesitant about his true intentions (XVIII). It is reflective of the general relationship between the indigenous people and the settlers. They can co-exist and even closely interact, but there is always a sort of gap in understanding each other’s cultures, and to some extent, a level of mistrust. There is a cooperative relationship at times but neither, especially settlers demonstrate the true respect for the indigenous culture and way of life.

The ritual that Celia arranged for Alex can be interpreted in several ways. The first one is, obviously, an act of revenge for Alex, a father who never bothered to even try to know his son (XX). However, here, Celia presents revenge as being symbolic, without any physical act of violence, in the form of a ritual, that still inflicts pain on the man. In that sense, it is a way for Celia to purify herself of old emotions – all of them – from grief from the death of her son to the hatred towards the man. Burning is always an act of purification as much as erasure – and this is particularly why the rest of the women, especially Momma, was hesitant to do it at first. She would rather hold onto the memories of her grandchild, who tragically committed suicide, however, Celia has had too much to bear it. Thus, the significance of burning all of the boy’s photographs lies in the resolution of Celia’s trauma, as well as the infliction of unbearable regret onto Alex for not being there for his son (XXI).

Stella is an alcoholic, ex-prostitute mother who has completely degraded morally at the time of the ritual. It is of immense pain for Ned to see the woman of his tribe to have gotten so low and indignant. Being an elder of the community and having the power over her, he makes her go through purging her alcohol addiction until she is free of it. During that process, Ned and Jim, who help him, constantly inquire Stella about her daughter, whom she, like her man John, also treated violently. Stella is unable to say anything intelligible about her child’s whereabouts. Her condition and her indifference towards her own offspring outrage Ned, and he continues this ritual until Stella becomes at least partially sober and sane. For Stella, this ritual materializes the fears of her old life, one that she has left behind a long time ago; for Ned, it is an act of familial purification (XVI).

A ritual that Jacob prepared for Amos can be said to be the most unusual one in the book. It consisted of a ceremonial dance – one that would rid Amos of all of his trauma and sins. He dances violently, as years of alcoholism, childhood bullying, starvation and other pain exist in his body. Along with it, his soul does – as his ancestors reach for his dancing figure. It is interesting that in this particular moment, a baby is born into the family – as Amos dies (XX). When Jacob was a witness to Shelly’s suffering, it was almost as he predicted it, he felt the connection between the spiritual and the real worlds, and he also felt a burden of guilt for what happened, for not protecting the child and the family by being silent (XIV). However, Amos has grown up and knows how to act based on the faith and beliefs of the family.

Work Cited

Lee, Maracle. Celia’s Song. Cormorant Books, 2014.


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