Critical Context (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 174

Margaret Laurence’s writings are often critically divided into two geographical categories: the African and the Canadian. The African writings include such diverse literary genres as a translation of Somali stories, a critical study of Nigerian literature, and a travel memoir. Her best-known writings, however, are her Canadian novels, often referred to as her “Manawaka Cycle,” which deal directly or indirectly over four generations with life on the Prairies. The Stone Angel, the first published of Laurence’s Manawaka novels, is also her best known and best loved. The novel has received broad critical acclaim and is now considered a Canadian classic.

Although the vividly realized social world Laurence portrays in The Stone Angel is essential to the reader’s understanding of the novel’s characters, Laurence’s focus is on the realism of the psyche. Like Sinclair Ross, to whom she is often compared, Laurence deals with the spiritual journey toward self-understanding, a journey which carries Hagar, for example, out of bondage in a wilderness of pride and into the freedom to love.

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