May 9, 2010
The Stone Angel: Significance of the Title
The Stone Angel, published in 1964, is one of Margaret Laurence’s best known novels. Throughout the novel, Laurence reveals how life was in Western Canada during the 1930’s. In The Stone Angel, the ninety-year-old protagonist reflects on her life attempting to understand herself. During the recollection of her past, the audience discovers that Hagar had a rough life as she had to endure the loss of many family members. Her mother died giving birth to her and had an expensive stone angel bought for her grave. Throughout her self-realization she learns that she is in fact the stone angel. Hagar’s lack of emotion, her blindness, and her pride are all qualities she shares with the stone angel.
Even as a young child, Hagar reveals that she fails to express her emotions several times. She believed that showing emotion was a sign of weakness. Looking back on the past, Hagar realizes her first scenario with lack of emotion was at the age of six. Hagar resembled her father in many ways opposed to her brothers who inherited their mother’s frailty. When Hagar embarrasses her father in his store he whips her hands and she refuses to cry. Mr. Currie proclaims that she takes after him and that she has a backbone. Another encounter with the difficulty of expressing emotion is when her brother, Dan, was dying of pneumonia. While showing off for the girls, Dan skated right into one of the holes where they cut a block of ice and when his fever went up, the doctor was out
of town. Matt thought the only solution was for Hagar to cradle him while wearing their mother’s shawl in attempt to comfort him. Although, Hagar wanted to help her brother, she could not bring herself to imitate the frailty of the women who died giving birth to her (Aubrey, 319). But all I could think of was that meek woman I’d never seen, the woman Dan was said to resemble so much and from whom he’d inherited a frailty I could not help but detest, however much a part of me wanted to sympathize. To play at being her – it was beyond me (Laurence 25,26). This quotation proves that Hagar cannot perform a simple task that requires loves, even in an attempt to save her own brother. This is a sign of weakness because she is unable to communicate with a family member.
The suppression of Hagar’s true feelings are displayed in two similar losses with her sons. When Marvin decides to go war at seventeen, Hagar cannot express the fact that she believes he is too young to go and that she is frightened for him. Relentlessly critical, unable to reach out to others, always ready to think the worst of people Hagar is a stone angel indeed. Imprisoned in her own mind, she is unable to bring light to herself or to those around her. (Aubrey 325) This quote provides an understanding of Hagar’s characteristics and her inability to communicate and express her thoughts and feelings with those around her. Similarly, when Hagar’s son, John, dies she refuses to cry in front of the nurse because she will not allow a stranger to see her cry. Even when she is all alone she discovers she is unable to cry at all. “The night my son died, I was transformed to stone and never wept at all” Sayers 3 (Laurence, 264). This quotation illustrates Hagar’s first realization of a comparison she makes with the stone angel. During the recollection of her lack of emotion, Hagar realizes that her heart is in fact made of stone.
Another characteristic Hagar shares with the stone angel is blindness. Hagar continuously reveals that she is blind to other’s opinions and how she treats people. We see what Hagar says and does and the effect she has on others and much of that we would judge harshly; but because Hagar is allowed to tell her own story, because we enter her consciousness and live there we...
Cited: Aubrey Bryan. “The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence”. Novels For Students (2001).
Ed. Elizabeth Thomason. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 319, 325.
Laurence, Margaret. “The Stone Angel”. (1964). Toronto: McClelland & Stuart Ltd, 2004.
Rooke, Constance. “Hagar’s Old Age: The Stone Angel as Vollendugsroman”. Crossing
the River. Ed. Kristjana Gunnars. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1988. 35.
Thomas, Clara. “The Stone Angel”. Margaret Laurence (1969). Ed. W. David Godfrey. Toronto: McClelland & Stuart Ltd, 1969. 43.
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