How we treat others defines us! Celia behind me is a short story written by the Canadian author Isabel Huggan in 1984.
The plot of the story is narrated from Elizabeth’s point of view and revolves around Elizabeth’s own fear and insecurities coming out as hatred towards Celia who is bullied by everyone at the school due to her physical appearance.
The story is a memory of Elizabeth and hence written in past tense. The main theme in the story is bullying, but other themes like anger, fear and acceptance are also highlighted.
Elizabeth feared that she would be the next Celia who would be humiliated every day as she would not be able to deal with being the victim.
We see her vulnerability when she has to ask the popular girl for a piece of chocolate: “"Then could I have it, eh?" The pressure under which I acted made my chin quiver and a tear started down my cheek before I could wipe it away”.
The fact that a tear is coming down Elizabeth’s cheek tells us how emotional and apprehensive she is. Towards the end of the short story, we see Elizabeth’s classmates mock her by linking her with Celia and using her old bullying name “Sucky”
Elizabeth’s fears seem to become a reality. “There they all were, on the bridge looking down, and as soon as they saw my face began to chant
"Better wait for Celia, Sucky. Better get Celia, Sucky" This brings out the worse side of Elizabeth as she ends up beating Celia due to the humiliation she feels.
As the author refers to in the story: “She made me discover a darkness far more frightening than the echoing culvert, far more enduring than her smooth, pink face”.
Most of the story takes place on the streets, at the school or at Elizabeth’s home. We get to know about the “group”, which Elizabeth considers herself a part of.
“As the fall turned to winter, the five of us who lived on Brubacher Street and went back and forth to school together got meaner and meaner to Celia.”