Grief and Healing in
“The Stone Boy” by Gina Berriault
Gina Berriault’s “The Stone Boy” is an intricate examination of a family coping with tragedy. In a key passage of the story, Arnold hides out in the barn as his family goes to search for Eugene. Arnold’s physical separation from his family is symbolic of the emotional distance that escalates through the story, culminating in the strained relationship illustrated in the resolution of the conflict. This passage is crucial to understanding the theme of the story which is that while grief presents itself in many forms, comfort and understanding are essential elements in the healing process and if these basic human needs are not met, grief will manifest itself as an isolating and divisive factor.
Arnold’s separation from his family coincides with his increasing sense of culpability revealing the destructive impact of managing one’s grief in isolation. When Arnold’s family discover Eugene’s body, the narrator states that “sounds sharp as knives were rising from his [Arnold’s] mother’s breast” (387). When Arnold hears the uproar, the narrator describes Arnold as laying “still as a fugitive” (387). The anguish that Arnold’s mother displays is expressed through the use of a powerful metaphor, describing her screams as “sharp as knives”, which greatly contrasts Arnold’s response to the tragedy: withdrawal and isolation. A “mother’s breast” is normally associated with ideas of nurture and comfort, but in this case Arnold cannot seek solace in his mother’s bosom as it is representative of a mother’s heartbreaking loss. Arnold does not vocalise his pain but instead elects to remain in solitude. The conflicting methods of grieving creates a barrier between Arnold and his family as evidenced by Arnold’s decision to lie “still as a fugitive” rather than rush down to his mother’s side. The narrator’s use of the term “fugitive” suggests that Arnold feels guilty for what has transpired and is fleeing the judgement of his...
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