What is the significance of the title of The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence?

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The striking stone angel is a statue that James Currie imports from Italy to watch over his wife's grave. She presides over Hagar Shipley's memory of her childhood in Manawaka. Margaret Laurence uses the stone angel to symbolize Hagar's personality traits. Like the statue, Hagar is unable to express her emotions. Her ego prevents her from showing her true feelings. Whoever has carved the stone angel has left her eyeballs blank. Hagar, too, is oblivious to her desires, and to the needs of her loved ones.

Hagar has a rough life, and the stone angel receives her share of humiliations too. On a drive to the cemetery with her son John, Hagar finds the statue “toppled over on her face" and "painted with lipstick." Towards the end, she discovers the stone angel in a deteriorated state. The gradual decline of the statue is a reminder of the universal fact of life, decay and death.

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The significance of the title of The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence depends on the recollection by the protagonist Hagar of seeing a large marble angel in the churchyard in her hometown of Manawaka. The angel is important in many ways. First, it is an emblem of Hagar herself, who is proud and impassive; Laurence emphasizes the parallelism when she makes Hagar think:

“Is it a mausoleum, and I, the Egyptian, mummified with pillows and my own flesh, through some oversight embalmed alive? There must be some mistake.”

Next, an angel is a messenger. As the stone angel is located in a cemetery, the message it bears is about death; given Hagar's age and failing health, she is both recipient of the message and also, to readers of the novel, herself a messenger, telling us the readers something about the nature of old age and death.

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