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Home » The Stone Angel: A Comprehensive Summary by Margaret Laurence

The Stone Angel: A Comprehensive Summary by Margaret Laurence

“The Stone Angel” is a novel written by Canadian author Margaret Laurence. Set in the fictional town of Manawaka, the story follows the life of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman who reflects on her past and the choices she has made. In this comprehensive summary, we will explore the themes, characters, and plot of the novel, as well as Laurence’s writing style and the historical context in which the story is set.

Background and Setting

The Stone Angel is a novel written by Canadian author Margaret Laurence. It was first published in 1964 and has since become a classic in Canadian literature. The novel is set in the fictional town of Manawaka, Manitoba, which is based on Laurence’s hometown of Neepawa. The story follows the life of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman who is reflecting on her past and coming to terms with her own mortality. The novel is a poignant exploration of themes such as family, aging, and the search for identity. The setting of Manawaka is an important aspect of the novel, as it serves as a microcosm of Canadian society and reflects the struggles and challenges faced by many Canadians during the mid-20th century. Through Hagar’s story, Laurence offers a powerful commentary on the human condition and the complexities of life.

Main Characters

The Stone Angel, written by Margaret Laurence, is a novel that revolves around the life of Hagar Shipley, the main character. Hagar is a proud and stubborn woman who has lived a long and eventful life. She is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and has always been accustomed to a life of privilege. However, her life takes a turn for the worse when she marries Bram Shipley, a poor farmer who is not well-liked by her family. Despite her family’s disapproval, Hagar remains loyal to Bram and they have two sons together. However, tragedy strikes when their eldest son dies in a car accident, and Hagar is left to deal with the grief and guilt that comes with losing a child.

As the novel progresses, we see Hagar’s life unfold through a series of flashbacks. We learn about her difficult relationship with her father, her strained relationship with her sons, and her complicated marriage to Bram. We also see how Hagar’s stubbornness and pride have caused her to make many mistakes throughout her life. Despite her flaws, however, Hagar is a complex and compelling character who is impossible to forget.

In addition to Hagar, there are several other important characters in the novel. Bram Shipley, Hagar’s husband, is a rough and uneducated man who is often at odds with Hagar. John, Hagar’s eldest son, is a sensitive and artistic young man who is tragically killed in a car accident. Marvin, Hagar’s youngest son, is a successful businessman who is distant from his mother. Lottie, Hagar’s best friend, is a kind and supportive woman who is always there for Hagar when she needs her.

Overall, The Stone Angel is a powerful novel that explores the complexities of human relationships and the struggles that come with aging. Hagar Shipley is a fascinating character who will stay with readers long after they finish the book.

Plot Summary

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence is a novel that tells the story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman who is reflecting on her life as she nears the end of it. The novel is divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on Hagar’s childhood and early adulthood, and the second part focusing on her later years. Throughout the novel, Hagar struggles with her relationships with her family members, particularly her father and her sons, and with her own sense of identity and purpose. As she looks back on her life, Hagar comes to realize the mistakes she has made and the ways in which she has hurt those around her. Ultimately, she must come to terms with her own mortality and find a way to make peace with her past.

Themes and Motifs

One of the most prominent themes in Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel is the idea of pride and its destructive nature. The protagonist, Hagar Shipley, is a proud and stubborn woman who refuses to accept help from others and insists on maintaining her independence. This pride ultimately leads to her downfall as she becomes isolated and bitter in her old age.

Another recurring motif in the novel is the use of stones and rocks to symbolize various aspects of Hagar’s life. The title itself, The Stone Angel, refers to a statue in the cemetery where Hagar will eventually be buried. This statue serves as a reminder of Hagar’s own stubbornness and unwillingness to change. Throughout the novel, stones are also used to represent Hagar’s memories and the weight of her past.

The theme of family is also explored in The Stone Angel, as Hagar struggles to come to terms with her relationships with her children and her own parents. The novel highlights the importance of forgiveness and the damaging effects of holding grudges.

Overall, The Stone Angel is a complex and thought-provoking novel that explores a variety of themes and motifs. Through Hagar’s story, Laurence offers a powerful commentary on the human condition and the importance of self-reflection and growth.

Symbolism in The Stone Angel

Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel is a novel that is rich in symbolism. The protagonist, Hagar Shipley, is a complex character who is struggling to come to terms with her past and her present. Throughout the novel, Laurence uses various symbols to represent Hagar’s inner turmoil and the themes of the novel.

One of the most prominent symbols in the novel is the stone angel. The stone angel is a statue that is located in the cemetery where Hagar’s family is buried. The statue is a symbol of Hagar’s pride and stubbornness. Hagar sees herself as a strong and unyielding woman, much like the stone angel. However, as the novel progresses, Hagar begins to realize that her pride and stubbornness have caused her to miss out on important relationships and experiences in her life.

Another important symbol in the novel is the flower garden. The flower garden is a symbol of Hagar’s desire for beauty and order in her life. Hagar spends a great deal of time tending to her garden, and it becomes a source of pride for her. However, the garden also represents Hagar’s fear of death and her desire to control the natural world.

Finally, the river is another important symbol in the novel. The river represents the passage of time and the inevitability of change. Hagar is afraid of change and tries to resist it at every turn. However, as she grows older, she begins to realize that change is inevitable and that she must learn to accept it.

In conclusion, The Stone Angel is a novel that is rich in symbolism. The stone angel, the flower garden, and the river are just a few of the symbols that Laurence uses to represent Hagar’s inner turmoil and the themes of the novel. These symbols help to create a complex and nuanced portrait of a woman who is struggling to come to terms with her past and her present.

The Role of Gender in the Novel

In “The Stone Angel” by Margaret Laurence, gender plays a significant role in shaping the protagonist’s experiences and relationships. Hagar Shipley, the novel’s central character, is a woman who defies societal expectations and norms throughout her life. As a young girl, Hagar is expected to marry and have children, but she rebels against this idea and instead pursues her education and independence.

As Hagar grows older, her gender continues to impact her life in various ways. She struggles to assert herself in a male-dominated society, and her relationships with men are often fraught with tension and power imbalances. Hagar’s marriage to Bram Shipley, for example, is marked by his abusive behavior and her inability to leave him due to societal pressures.

Furthermore, Hagar’s relationship with her son, John, is also shaped by gender dynamics. John is the only child of Hagar’s who survives infancy, and she places a great deal of pressure on him to live up to her expectations of what a man should be. This pressure ultimately leads to their estrangement, as John resents his mother’s attempts to control his life.

Overall, gender plays a crucial role in “The Stone Angel,” shaping Hagar’s experiences and relationships in significant ways. Through Hagar’s story, Laurence highlights the ways in which societal expectations and gender norms can limit individuals and lead to conflict and unhappiness.

Relationships in The Stone Angel

In The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence explores the complex relationships between Hagar Shipley and the people in her life. Hagar’s strained relationship with her father, Jason Currie, sets the tone for her future relationships. Her marriage to Bram Shipley is marked by bitterness and resentment, and her relationship with her son, Marvin, is distant and strained. However, Hagar’s relationship with her granddaughter, Arlene, is a source of comfort and healing. Through these relationships, Laurence portrays the impact of family dynamics on one’s sense of self and the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Importance of Family in the Novel

In “The Stone Angel” by Margaret Laurence, family plays a crucial role in the life of the protagonist, Hagar Shipley. Throughout the novel, Hagar’s relationships with her family members shape her personality and influence her decisions. Her strained relationship with her father, Jason Currie, leads to a deep-seated resentment towards men and a desire for independence. Her marriage to Bram Shipley, a man her father disapproves of, further exacerbates the tension between Hagar and her family. As Hagar ages, she becomes increasingly isolated from her children and grandchildren, leading to a sense of loneliness and regret. The novel highlights the importance of family in shaping one’s identity and the consequences of neglecting those relationships.

Religion and Spirituality in The Stone Angel

Religion and spirituality play a significant role in Margaret Laurence’s novel, The Stone Angel. The protagonist, Hagar Shipley, is a devout Presbyterian who clings to her faith as a source of comfort and guidance throughout her life. However, her relationship with religion is complex, as she often struggles with feelings of doubt and rebellion against the strict rules and expectations of her church.

Hagar’s spirituality is also deeply tied to her connection to the natural world. She finds solace in the beauty of the prairie landscape and feels a sense of awe and wonder at the power of nature. This connection to the natural world is reflected in her belief in a higher power that is present in all things, rather than a distant God who rules from above.

Throughout the novel, Hagar’s faith is tested by the challenges she faces, including the loss of loved ones and her own declining health. She grapples with questions of mortality and the afterlife, and ultimately comes to a deeper understanding of the complexities of faith and spirituality.

Overall, The Stone Angel explores the ways in which religion and spirituality can provide comfort and guidance, but also the ways in which they can be sources of conflict and struggle. Through Hagar’s journey, Laurence offers a nuanced and complex portrayal of the role of faith in human life.

Canadian Identity in The Stone Angel

In The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence explores the concept of Canadian identity through the character of Hagar Shipley. Hagar, a proud and stubborn woman, embodies the stoic and independent spirit often associated with Canadian identity. However, as the novel progresses, Hagar’s past and present experiences challenge her understanding of herself and her place in Canadian society.

Through Hagar’s interactions with other characters, such as her son Marvin and her childhood friend Bram, Laurence highlights the tension between individualism and community in Canadian identity. Hagar’s desire for independence clashes with her need for connection and belonging, ultimately leading to her isolation and loneliness.

Furthermore, Hagar’s experiences as a woman also shed light on the complexities of Canadian identity. As a woman in a patriarchal society, Hagar faces limitations and expectations that shape her identity and experiences. Her struggles with marriage, motherhood, and aging reflect the challenges faced by many Canadian women in the mid-twentieth century.

Overall, The Stone Angel offers a nuanced exploration of Canadian identity through the character of Hagar Shipley. Laurence’s portrayal of Hagar’s struggles and triumphs highlights the complexities and contradictions of Canadian identity, and invites readers to reflect on their own understanding of what it means to be Canadian.

The Writing Style of Margaret Laurence

Margaret Laurence is known for her unique writing style that blends realism with symbolism. Her use of vivid imagery and descriptive language creates a powerful and emotional impact on the reader. In “The Stone Angel,” Laurence’s writing style is particularly evident in the character of Hagar Shipley, whose inner thoughts and emotions are portrayed through stream-of-consciousness narration. Laurence’s ability to capture the complexities of human nature and the struggles of life make “The Stone Angel” a timeless classic.

Historical Context of The Stone Angel

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence is a novel that is set in the early 20th century in the fictional town of Manawaka, Manitoba. The novel is deeply rooted in the historical context of the time, which was marked by significant changes in Canadian society. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, which had a profound impact on the lives of Canadians. The economic downturn led to widespread poverty and unemployment, and many people struggled to make ends meet. The novel also explores the impact of World War I on Canadian society, particularly on the lives of soldiers who returned home with physical and emotional scars. The novel is also set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement, which was gaining momentum in Canada at the time. The novel explores the challenges faced by women in a patriarchal society, and the ways in which they fought for their rights and freedoms. Overall, The Stone Angel is a powerful exploration of the historical context of early 20th century Canada, and the ways in which these historical events shaped the lives of ordinary Canadians.

The Significance of the Title

The title of Margaret Laurence’s novel, The Stone Angel, holds great significance in understanding the themes and motifs present throughout the story. The stone angel itself serves as a symbol of Hagar Shipley’s stubbornness and pride, as well as her inability to connect with others emotionally. The title also alludes to biblical references, such as the story of Jacob’s ladder and the angel that stood at its top. This connection to religion highlights the themes of mortality and the search for meaning in life that are present throughout the novel. Overall, the title of The Stone Angel is a crucial element in understanding the complex character of Hagar and the deeper themes of the story.

Comparisons to Other Works by Margaret Laurence

Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel has often been compared to her other works, particularly her Manawaka series, which includes A Jest of God and The Diviners. Like these novels, The Stone Angel explores themes of identity, family, and the search for meaning in life. However, The Stone Angel stands out for its focus on the character of Hagar Shipley, a complex and flawed protagonist who struggles with her past and her relationships with those around her. In contrast, the protagonists of Laurence’s other works are often younger women who are still discovering themselves and their place in the world. Despite these differences, The Stone Angel remains a powerful and poignant work that showcases Laurence’s skill as a writer and her ability to capture the complexities of human experience.

The Reception of The Stone Angel

The reception of The Stone Angel has been overwhelmingly positive since its publication in 1964. Margaret Laurence’s novel has been praised for its vivid portrayal of the protagonist, Hagar Shipley, and her journey through life. Critics have also lauded Laurence’s use of symbolism and imagery to convey the themes of pride, aging, and mortality. The novel has been translated into several languages and has been adapted into a film. The Stone Angel continues to be a beloved classic in Canadian literature and a testament to Laurence’s talent as a writer.

The Legacy of The Stone Angel

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence is a novel that has left a lasting impact on readers since its publication in 1964. The story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman reflecting on her life and relationships, has resonated with audiences for decades. The novel’s themes of pride, regret, and the search for identity are universal and timeless. The Stone Angel has been adapted into a play, a film, and has been studied in schools and universities around the world. Its legacy is a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring relevance of literature.