What are the various functions in the novel The Stone Angel
In Margaret Laurence’s novel “The Stone Angel,” the stone angel statue serves as a multi-faceted symbol with various functions throughout the narrative. Situated in the cemetery, this stone angel symbolises a tangible and figurative presence in the life of the main character of the book, Hagar Shipley. As the narrative develops, its meaning changes to mirror Hagar’s feelings and experiences.
Symbol of Stubbornness and Resistance:
At first, Hagar’s obstinacy and refusal to change are represented by the stone angel. Despite her son Marvin’s misgivings, the ageing and fiercely independent protagonist Hagar insists on placing a stone angel on her family plot. Hagar’s unwavering character, her resolve to stand up for herself, and her defiance of her family’s wishes are all reflected in the angel.
Representation of Hagar’s Pride and Stoicism:
The stone angel also represents Hagar’s pride and stoicism. Just as the angel stands tall and unyielding in the face of the elements, so does Hagar in her old age. She refuses to show weakness or vulnerability, even when her health and circumstances deteriorate. The angel serves as a visual reminder of Hagar’s unyielding spirit and her determination to maintain her dignity.
Foreshadowing of Mortality:
The stone angel foreshadows Hagar’s mortality throughout the novel. The angel, situated in the cemetery, serves as a constant reminder of death and the passage of time. As Hagar reflects on her life, the stone angel looms in the background, hinting at the inevitability of her own death. Its presence underscores the novel’s exploration of aging, mortality, and the search for meaning in life.
Symbol of Lost Identity:
As the narrative unfolds, the stone angel takes on a deeper symbolic meaning as a representation of Hagar’s lost identity. Hagar feels trapped in her roles as a daughter, wife, and mother, and the stone angel becomes a reflection of her own sense of entrapment. The angel’s imposing posture and unchanging expression mirror Hagar’s perceived inability to break free from the societal and familial expectations that have defined her life.
Marker of Family History:
The stone angel serves as a marker of family history and legacy. It stands on the Shipley family plot, marking the graves of Hagar’s ancestors. As Hagar reflects on her family’s history and her own place within it, the stone angel becomes a symbol of the generations that have come before her. It represents the weight of tradition and the expectations of her forebears.
Reflection of Emotional Barriers:
The stone angel also reflects the emotional barriers that Hagar has built around herself. Just as the angel’s face remains frozen and unmoving, Hagar’s emotional expression is often restricted. She struggles to express her love and vulnerability, and the stone angel becomes a symbol of the emotional stagnation that plagues her relationships, particularly with her son Marvin.
Contrast with Brampton’s Cemetery Angel:
The stone angel in the cemetery stands in contrast to the angel in the Brampton cemetery. The Brampton angel, representing life and rebirth, serves as a foil to Hagar’s stone angel. It highlights the novel’s thematic exploration of life, death, and the choices people make. Hagar’s stone angel represents resistance to change and the fear of embracing new experiences.
Catalyst for Hagar’s Self-Reflection:
As the novel progresses, the stone angel becomes a catalyst for Hagar’s self-reflection. It triggers memories of her past, including her strained relationship with her father, her loveless marriage to Bram Shipley, and the choices that shaped her life. The stone angel serves as a vehicle for Hagar to revisit her history and come to terms with her regrets and missed opportunities.
Symbol of Redemption:
In the novel’s climactic moment, Hagar finds herself trapped and helpless in a snowstorm. In her moment of desperation, she reaches out to the stone angel as a symbol of redemption and forgiveness. The angel’s face, which she previously perceived as cold and judgmental, now takes on a compassionate and forgiving expression. This transformation symbolizes Hagar’s own journey toward self-forgiveness and acceptance.
Representation of Closure and Peace:
Ultimately, the stone angel serves as a symbol of closure and peace. As Hagar confronts her own mortality and the memories of her past, she finds a sense of acceptance and resolution. The stone angel, which has been a source of conflict and reflection throughout the novel, comes to represent a source of peace and closure for Hagar as she approaches the end of her life.
In “The Stone Angel,” Margaret Laurence masterfully uses the stone angel statue as a multi-dimensional symbol that evolves throughout the narrative. It serves as a reflection of Hagar Shipley’s character, her pride and resistance, her sense of entrapment and emotional barriers, and her eventual path to self-acceptance and closure. The stone angel’s transformation and changing significance parallel Hagar’s own journey, making it a central and powerful element in the novel.