The Stone Angel, first published in 1964 by McClelland and Stewart, is perhaps the best-known of Margaret Laurence's series of novels set in the fictitious town of Manawaka, Manitoba. In parallel narratives set in the past and the present-day (early 1960s), The Stone Angel tells the story of Hagar Currie Shipley. In the present-day narrative, 90-year-old Hagar is struggling against being put in a nursing home, which she sees as a symbol of death. The present-day narrative alternates with Hagar's looking back at her life.
In a series of vignettes, The Stone Angel tells the story of Hagar Shipley, a 90-year-old woman struggling to come to grips with a life of intransigence and loss. The themes of pride and the prejudice that comes from social class recur in the novel. As a young girl she refuses to rock her dying brother in the garments of their mother. As a young woman she marries against her father's wishes, severing the family ties. She shows favoritism towards her younger son, John. After Hagar separates from her husband, John comes with her. However, he ultimately returns to his father. When John dies, Hagar does not cry, and at that point, she turns into a "Stone Angel". Later in life, her elder son Martin is shown to have been the good and loyal son all along, despite the lack of his mother's favour. As a 90-year-old woman, Hagar goes on an expected adventure into the woods alone. Given her age, there is an overtone that this event will be the last chapter of her life. In the woods, she meets another wanderer. The two have a bonding conversation, where Hagar finally opens up. A lifetime of buried emotion comes out, and she finally cries. The next day the police and Martin come to rescue Hagar from the woods. In an act of love and repentance, she confesses to Martin that he was the better son. It is unclear whether she dies at the end of the novel.
Literary significance and criticismEdit
Amongst other titles by Laurence, The Stone Angel is consistently listed as one of the greatest Canadian novels ever written. School boards have been pressured to ban her novels. The novel is studied at the grade 12 university level in other schools.
Recognition and adaptionsEdit
- The Stone Angel was one of the selected books in the 2002 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Leon Rooke.
- Made into a movie The Stone Angel, filmed in Winnipeg and Hartney, Manitoba. Stars Ellen Burstyn, Dylan Baker, Ellen Page and Kevin Zegers.
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