The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
"The Stone Angel" by Margaret Laurence is an epic novel that tells the story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman who reflects on her life, regrets, and the choices she made. The novel is set in the small town of Manawaka, Canada, during the early 1900s. The story is told through Hagar's perspective and is divided into ten chapters, each revealing different aspects of her life.
At the beginning of the novel, in the first chapter, Hagar is introduced as a ninety-year-old woman who is living with her son and daughter-in-law. She is frustrated with her dependence on them and constantly reminisces about her past. Hagar then takes us back to her childhood, where we learn about her relationship with her father, who always favored her brother Dan over her. This sets the tone for the rest of the novel, as Hagar struggles with feelings of inadequacy and neglect throughout her life.
Chapter two recounts Hagar's marriage to Bram Shipley, a farmer who she married against her father's wishes. Hagar's marriage to Bram is rocky, and they have two sons, Marvin and John. Hagar is shown to be a harsh and demanding mother, which leads to a strained relationship with her sons.
In chapter three, Hagar is confronted with the reality of her aging body and the limitations it imposes upon her. She decides to take a trip to the coast alone, which leads to her getting lost and becoming stranded. This event marks a turning point in the novel, as Hagar begins to face her own mortality.
Chapter four reveals Hagar's relationship with her best friend, Lottie, who she had a falling out with years ago. Hagar's relationship with Lottie is complicated, and she feels guilty for the way things ended between them.
In chapter five, Hagar reminisces about her relationship with her first love, Bram's brother, Matt. Hagar's relationship with Matt is contrasted with her marriage to Bram, and she is shown to have had a more fulfilling and passionate relationship with Matt. This chapter also highlights the theme of regret, as Hagar's decision to marry Bram over Matt is one of her biggest regrets in life.
In chapter six, Hagar's older son, Marvin, dies, and Hagar is consumed with grief. She becomes more isolated and has a strained relationship with John, who she sees as weak and incapable. This chapter explores the theme of family relationships and the way in which they can be strained and complicated.
In chapter seven, Hagar's relationship with John is explored further, and we learn that he has become a successful businessman. Hagar, however, is unable to see past her own biases and continues to see him as a disappointment. This chapter highlights the theme of aging and the way in which it can impact our perceptions of others.
In chapter eight, Hagar's health deteriorates further, and she is forced to move into a nursing home. She is resentful of the way she is treated and longs for her independence. This chapter explores the theme of aging and the way in which it can impact our sense of identity.
In chapter nine, Hagar is visited by her estranged daughter-in-law, Doris, who reveals that John has asked her to take Hagar in. Hagar refuses to leave the nursing home, and the novel ends with her reflecting on her life and the choices she made. This chapter highlights the theme of acceptance and the importance of coming to terms with our own mortality.
"The Stone Angel" is a powerful novel that explores themes of regret, aging, and family relationships. Through Hagar's story, Laurence shows us the consequences of our choices and the importance of accepting responsibility for our actions. The novel is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of living it to the fullest, without regrets. It is a work of art that takes the reader on an emotional journey, exploring the depths of the human experience and the complexities of our relationships with ourselves and others.