The Stone Diaries Essay - Critical Evaluation

Carol Shields

Critical Evaluation

The question of the narrator or narrators in The Stone Diaries is an important one. Who is telling Daisy’s story? Is it Daisy, or someone else, or both? As Penelope Fitzgerald notes in a 1993 review of The Stone Diaries, the novel is, “among other things, about the limitations of autobiography.” Throughout the work, Carol Shields makes use of ephemera such as photographs, letters, diary entries, a detailed family tree, and newspaper clippings to tell Daisy’s story; she also uses first- and third-person narrative.

Fitzgerald is just one of many critics to note that the novel, through its structure, comments on the blurring of autobiography and fiction. In the story, Daisy tells of things that she could not possibly know, such as her mother’s thoughts and feelings in the moments leading up to Daisy’s birth, and her father’s dying thoughts fifty years later.

Although parts of the novel read like a standard autobiography—Daisy’s life is told from birth to death, but with significant gaps—it differs in that her story is told not from her point of view alone. After Daisy shares the events leading up to her birth, the story switches to third-person narration; this narrative change and the telling of Daisy’s story through the people around her lead to questions about the level of control people have of their own life stories—does anyone really know anyone else?

Daisy seems to disappear many times in the story, as other characters take on a more prominent role; two examples are the stories of Magnus Flett and of her father’s building of the Goodwill Tower. Even when the narrative deals directly with Daisy’s life—points in the text where her voice would be expected, such as the descriptions of personal letters—her voice is not heard. In fact, none of her personal letters has been kept. Aside from points in the novel where Daisy is the first-person narrator, her voice is absent, although it can be argued that Daisy’s voice comes through in the third-person narration. In the section of the novel showing photographs of Daisy’s...

(The entire section is 859 words.)