The Stone Angel is a novel by Canadian writer Margaret Laurence. The novel was first published in 1964 by McClelland and Stewart This novel is one of the best-known works of Laurence’s series of five novels that is set in the fictitious town named as Manawaka, Manitoba. The Stone Angel narrates the story of Hagar Currie Shipley, presently 90-year-old Hagar struggles against being put in a nursing home, which she sees as a symbol of death. This narrative alternates with Hagar looking back at her life.
Pride is the most prevailing theme of The Stone Angel is that of pride. Indeed, Hagar’s great pride helps Her to cope with the many difficulties she faces throughout her life. This pride, however, also separates And detaches her from others resulting in several strained relationships which she was unable to mend.As Hagar comes to realize towards the end of the book, most of the problems in her life stem from her excessive pride. Her sense of superiority is behind her ill-treatment of others, her refusal to acknowledge when she is wrong, and her inability to compromise with others or to see their point of view. Her behavior throughout the story leads to the destruction of several long-term relationships that might otherwise have sustained her and enriched her life.
Ultimately, her illusory superiority only leads to her own suffering. This point is emphasized in the scene where she is in the hospital and is visited by Mr. Troy, who sings a hymn about rejoicing for God. Previously, Hagar has been reluctant to pray, as belief in a higher power requires the relinquishing of pride and embrace of humility. Yet at this moment, Hagar is finally moved to tears, made to viscerally realize that it is her pride that has imprisoned her throughout whole life, blocking her from the true purposes of life: love and happiness.
The complicated duties and burdens of womanhood are laid bare over the course of The Stone Angel as the elderly Hagar Shipley reflects on her life. A woman’s options in life are often restricted to marrichildbearing, and the other sorts of “feminine” skills that Hagar learns at finishing school. For her whole life, Hagar is dependent on a man, whether it is her father, her husband, or, later, Mr. Oatley, for whom she works as a housekeeper. The roles of wife, mother, and daughter do not satisfy Hagar. She refuses to be the heiress to her father’s business. She views sexual intimacy with her husband as a chore and burden to bear. Hagar is alienated from her own mothering qualities, having lost her own mother as a new-born. Her emotional rigidity makes it impossible for her to nurture others, at times even becoming apathetic towards her own children. This all contributes to Hagar’s sense of always waiting for something more in life and not knowing who she is.
Memory and the Past
The novel consists of alternating passages from a past and a present, both of which exist within Hagar’s Mind. She is either remembering or perceiving the world around her with an old woman’s suspicious Eyes which give her observations their special twist and colour. It opens with Hagar recalling the stone Angel in her rich and racy inner prose, the prose of thoughts readers are expected to believe are addressed To them. And then Hagar describes the cemetery and suddenly switches to the present. From this Beginning until about the last quarter of the book, The Stone Angel maintains parallel chronological patterns, the present following sequentially the last days of Hagar’s life, and the flashbacks following, Also sequentially, the course of her life as it appears in her memories. Hagar’s journey through her own memories is painful and burdensome though she wishes she could change the mistakes of her past, she cannot. Towards the end of the novel, Hagar at last accepts the permanent and unchangeable nature of the past, knowing that to continue lingering in memory and shut out her present moment will only lead to spiritual “defeat.”
Hagar resents what she perceives to be interference from other people and deliberate attempts by them to control her or to thwart her will. As a young and unmarried woman, she wishes to become a schoolteacher, but her father vetoes the idea, trying to push her into managing the accounts for the store he owns. Whereas her father sees an opportunity for Hagar, she sees only a short-sighted attempt by him to ruin her career plans for his own personal gain. She marries Bram Shipley partly out of resentment, as she knows her father believes Bram to be an unsuitable and unworthy husband. When Hagar insists on marrying him, her father cuts her off without a cent and changes his will so that she will inherit nothing. Jason Currie thus develops his own resentment towards his daughter, whom he refuses to see for the rest of his life. The resentment of these characters stems from their pride and need to be right, which end up isolating them from their family.