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Creative Writing Entertainment Olaedo Ibegwam Chigaemezu

Are We Kind to Ourselves? – On Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, is powerful novel that examines family dynamic, adolescence, and the making of hard choices. Chige examines a profound quote found in the novel, and reflects on her own opinions about mistakes, choices, and regret.

Written by Olaedo Ibegwam Chigaemezu

“Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you”. 

—Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere (2017), p.289.       

Ng’s quote carries a comforting yet biting tone, telling us we all do things we regret every now and then, spelling out our responsibility to own up to them and reminding us that it’s okay to give ourselves yet another chance to carry on.

I have interpreted Ng’s quote as a three-stage process with a base founded on choices we make. Choices are either good or bad. They either bring us moments of relief or become the cause of our regrets. Stage One is the moment we make choices that we now regret, but Stage Two is where the problem really lies, where we take responsibility, and accept that we regret that certain choice we made. Some people skip Stage Two convincing themselves to take another chance without a modicum of guilt or consideration, which ends up having pernicious effects on their lives. Accepting your mistakes isn’t putting on a façade claiming everything is alright when it’s not. It doesn’t equate to constantly wearing penitent expressions while convincing yourself that you’re out to face the world. 

On the other hand, some let the regret eat them up; they remain in Stage Two convincing themselves that there is no way out. By then, are they really giving themselves one more chance? Are they being kind to themselves? Stage Two is a critical space between wallowing in self-pity and being overtly positive; it is the crucial step involving acceptance and understanding that should not be overlooked and it is to my understanding a difficult process. After this comes Stage Three: giving yourself another chance. It comes undoubtedly with a bit of unease, but later on a greater sense of liberation.

I believe Ng built this quote around Mia’s character, considering the many choices she had to make from absconding with her child to severing ties with her family, all while remaining resilient. The quote eventually came in to play from Mia to Lexie after she had undergone an abortion. 

Most times I get immersed and completely invested in the lives of the characters unfolding within the pages of the books I read, so much that I forget to appreciate the beauty of words and the deep meaning they hold. Therefore, I’m not one to look for moral lessons in a story; neither do I try to interpret passages or quotes. Instead I focus heavily on characters, relying on my imagination to understand their behaviors.  My reason for choosing this quote is because it conveys to me a meaning I can relate to. My interpretation derives a great deal from personal experiences as I have grown to understand that even though I make decisions and they don’t work out as I planned, it’s still up to me to determine my next steps. Thus, I know not to be overwhelmed by mistakes and to rather learn from them.

In conclusion, we all make choices every now and then. If it’s one you regret, be prepared to acknowledge it and give yourself another chance.

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