The Stone Angel Additional Summary

Margaret Laurence


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hagar Shipley, ninety years old, dominates the action in The Stone Angel, the first of Laurence’s five books that treat the experiences of women whose lives intersect with the fictional town of Manawaka, Manitoba. Hagar tells her story in the first person, and a review of her past life is woven into the narrative. Hagar was born in Manawaka; her mother died giving birth to her. Hagar has never accepted this loss. She associates any weakness on the part of others as symbolic of the weakness of her mother, who was not able to survive childbirth. To compensate, Hagar has always been a stern, unremitting judge of others. She has lost touch with the sensitive side of herself.

Laurence provides a compelling symbol of Hagar early in the novel. The town cemetery is dominated by the statue of a stone angel placed there in her mother’s honor. In an ironic twist of fate, the carver did not add the eyes of the angel, and the author suggests that this symbolic “blindness” is reflected in Hagar’s view of herself, her relationships with her father and her brothers, her marriage to Bram Shipley, and her attitudes toward her two sons, Marvin and John. Hagar has never seen herself for who she truly is. Reared by a maiden aunt, Hagar was dominated by her father, who had a narrow conception of how a young woman should act and what role she should fulfill. Hagar tries to escape her father’s domination by marrying Shipley, an uncouth farmer who shows little promise for managing his property. Before long, Hagar and Bram argue constantly; soon they live separate lives even though they live together. Eventually, they separate when Hagar leaves with their younger son, John.

Hagar invests all of her emotional energy in her son John. She rears him alone and becomes blind to his character as it develops in a direction similar to that of Bram. John becomes all that Hagar desires that he not become. He defies her just as she defied her father and just as Bram defied her. John even falls in love with a woman whom his mother considers beneath him. Unfortunately, Hagar cannot see and accept the deep affection the two feel toward each other. John and his lover die a tragic death, the result of another defiant act on John’s part. Hagar never forgives herself for driving him away and, in her mind, indirectly causing his death. The day she sees her dead son in the hospital is the day her grieving heart turns to stone.

The image of stone is an important part of the...

(The entire section is 1018 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The focus of the novel’s action is the failing mind of Hagar Shipley. At ninety, Hagar has become clumsy and forgetful, but ironically her mind is “rampant with memory” of her past life. Hagar lives with her elder son, Marvin, and his wife, Doris, who are themselves elderly and who are becoming increasingly unable to take care of her. Their suggestion that she be moved to a nursing home causes her to recoil in horror and insist on her right to live in her own home. Yet despite her protestations, Hagar is subjected to a surprise visit to “Silverthreads,” which she finds to be as odious as she imagined. When her exile to the nursing home seems imminent, she secretly flees to an abandoned fish cannery which she once saw at Shadow Point.

The journey to Shadow Point underlines the fragility of Hagar’s physical and mental state. Her exhausted body is barely able to carry her to her destination, and once she arrives there, she realizes that she has forgotten to bring water or warm clothing. That night, in the cold of the abandoned cannery manager’s house, Hagar imagines that she is at home and that Doris has forgotten to turn on the furnace. The physical strains of overexertion and of her exposure to cold during the night intensify Hagar’s mental disorientation and throw her more deeply into the emotional twilight of memory.

The next day, Hagar awakens thirsty but finds rainwater in a rusty bucket near the house. She then blithely...

(The entire section is 525 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In The Stone Angel Hagar Shipley thinks back over all her ninety years, from her childhood in a small Prairie town, to her marriage to...

(The entire section is 44 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Chapter 1
Ninety-year-old Hagar Shipley, who lives with her son Marvin and his wife, Doris, reminisces about her childhood in...

(The entire section is 1292 words.)