Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel is told through Hagar’s ninety-year-old eyes, with small events triggering flashbacks that reveal her history. The novel’s title is explained in the opening pages: The stone angel was a monument erected by Hagar’s father for his wife, who died giving birth to Hagar. Intended to impress, the angel is doubly blind: Made of unfeeling stone, she is also eyeless, and harkens people to heaven without knowing them. As Hagar’s narrative reveals, she has similar faults: Her pride and her unswerving sense of superiority often “blind” her to other people. Hagar is not apologetic about her past, but she does desire understanding.

Hagar’s thoughts of the angel spark memories. As youngest child and only daughter of the town’s storekeeper, Hagar is sure of her high place in the world. Her father is strict and undemonstrative, and he teaches Hagar these qualities. Inordinately proud of his position in the town, he will not jeopardize it. Laurence shows Manawaka’s social hierarchy: “No-Name” Lottie Dreiser is barred from the Curries’ house, and the “half-breeds” on the fringes of society are unacknowledged—although the Currie children secretly socialize with both.

Hagar’s fear of weakness is shown with her brother Dan’s death. Matt realizes that their dying and delirious brother wants to see their mother. He asks Hagar to wear her old shawl and to comfort Dan. Hagar refuses, remembering what she has heard about her mother’s meekness and frailty—qualities she detests. At age eight, Hagar has chosen her father’s steeliness and determination.

At eighteen, Hagar is sent to finishing school, where she learns social niceties such as embroidery, menu planning, and managing servants. Her father is pleased with her polish. Refusing Hagar’s wish to teach, he asks her to stay in Manawaka to act as his hostess. Bitterly, Hagar does his bidding for three years. To her father’s horrified disapproval, she then recklessly marries Bram Shipley and begins life on his farm. She hates Bram’s shiftlessness and vulgarity. Though he is...

(The entire section is 870 words.)