What are the various functions that the stone angel serves in the novel The Stone Angel

What are the various functions that the stone angel serves in the novel The Stone Angel

"The Stone Angel" is a novel that tells the story of Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman reflecting on her life and experiences as she approaches the end of her life. Throughout the novel, the stone angel, a monument in the cemetery that Hagar visits, takes on several functions, representing different aspects of Hagar's life and the broader themes of the novel.

What are the various functions that the stone angel serves in the novel The Stone Angel

A Physical Memorial

Essentially, the stone angel is a tangible tribute to Hagar's mother, symbolizing her father's devotion and affection. It is a concrete depiction of the affluence, social standing, and history of her family. The angel that was placed in the graveyard bears witness to the Shipley family's prominence in the neighborhood and their wish to honor their departed loved ones.

A Symbol of Wealth and Status

The stone angel also represents the Shipley family's wealth and status within the community. It is described as a "splendid piece of carving" and "as stately as the first of my family to come to Manawaka." This depiction reflects the family's affluence and social standing, which are important to Hagar's father, Jason Currie. 

What are the various functions that the stone angel serves in the novel The Stone Angel-The stone angel serves as a symbol of the family's success and prestige, which they worked hard to maintain and display to the community.

A Reflection of Hagar's Stubbornness

Hagar's stubbornness and strong-willed nature are mirrored in the stone angel. Just as Hagar resists her son Marvin's attempts to move her to a nursing home, the stone angel stands immovable in the cemetery, unaffected by the passage of time and the changing dynamics of the town. This symbolizes Hagar's determination to maintain her independence and her reluctance to adapt to the changing world around her.

A Representation of Hagar's Unyielding Pride

The stone angel reflects Hagar's unyielding pride and refusal to admit weakness or vulnerability. Like the angel, Hagar is rigid and unyielding, even when faced with her own frailty and the consequences of her choices. She clings to her pride, and the stone angel serves as a visual representation of this aspect of her character. It is unyielding and resistant to change, much like Hagar herself.

A Symbol of Constrained Emotions

Throughout the novel, Hagar's emotional life is repressed and hidden from those around her, including her own family. The stone angel, with its "closed lips," is a symbol of this emotional restraint. Just as the angel conceals its emotions, Hagar also conceals her feelings and struggles to express herself, which has significant consequences in her relationships with her husband, children, and those around her.

Also Read-

Analyse The Evolution Of A Distinct Video Style In Braithwaite’s Poems

A Reflection of Hagar's Isolation

Hagar's isolation and loneliness are reflected in the stone angel's solitary presence in the cemetery. The angel stands alone, detached from the other graves and monuments, much like Hagar, who often feels emotionally isolated from her family and community. Her inability to connect with others and the sense of alienation she experiences are embodied in the solitary nature of the stone angel.

A Symbol of Mortality and Death

The stone angel serves as a constant reminder of mortality and the inevitability of death. As Hagar ages and reflects on her life, she becomes increasingly aware of her own mortality. The angel, standing as a sentinel in the cemetery, signifies the passage of time and the certainty of death. It is a reminder that all living beings, no matter their wealth or status, will eventually face death.

A Metaphor for Aging

As Hagar ages and her physical and mental health deteriorate, the stone angel becomes a metaphor for the aging process. The angel, which was once pristine and majestic, has weathered and eroded over time, much like Hagar's body and mind. This reflects the universal experience of aging and the inevitable changes that come with it.

A Symbol of Female Strength and Resilience

The stone angel can also be seen as a symbol of female strength and resilience. Hagar, though flawed and complex, possesses a strong spirit and a determination to assert her independence. The stone angel, carved in the image of a woman, stands as a representation of this strength, reminding readers of the resilience of women in the face of adversity.

A Reflection of Family Legacy

The stone angel carries the legacy of Hagar's family, and it becomes a symbol of the generational cycle in the novel. It is the place where Hagar goes to remember her family's history, including her father, brothers, and husband. It also marks the place were her own ashes will be interred after her death. In this way, the stone angel represents the ongoing cycle of life and death within the Shipley family and the broader community.

A Symbol of Redemption and Forgiveness

Towards the end of the novel, as Hagar comes to terms with her own mortality and reconciles with her past, the stone angel takes on a new significance. It becomes a symbol of Hagar's potential for redemption and forgiveness. In her final moments, she imagines the stone angel's eyes "brighten with forgiveness," suggesting that, in death, she may find the forgiveness and peace that eluded her in life.

A Reflection of the Town of Manawaka

The stone angel also represents the town of Manawaka, which is a central setting in the novel. Just as the angel is a fixture in the cemetery, it reflects the enduring presence of the town in Hagar's life. Manawaka is the place where Hagar grew up, lived, and ultimately faces her final moments, and the stone angel symbolizes the inextricable connection between Hagar and her hometown.


The stone angel is a multifaceted symbol that has a variety of uses in Margaret Laurence's novel "The Stone Angel," both literally and figuratively. The stone angel serves as a metaphor for a number of themes and ideas in this literary masterwork, such as aging, pride, mortality, family legacy, emotional restraint, and the path to forgiveness and redemption. 

What are the various functions that the stone angel serves in the novel The Stone Angel-The fact that the stone angel functions as the novel's fundamental, unifying feature and reflects the complexity and depth of both the protagonist, Hagar Shipley, and the larger human experience is a credit to Laurence's writing prowess.

Through its many functions, the stone angel becomes a powerful vehicle for exploring the complexities of human nature, aging, and the struggle for identity and connection. It stands as a reminder that in literature, even inanimate objects can carry deep symbolic weight and offer profound insights into the human condition.


What is the significance of the stone angel in "The Stone Angel"?

The stone angel in the novel serves a range of functions, symbolizing family legacy, pride, mortality, aging, emotional restraint, isolation, and the journey towards redemption and forgiveness. It plays a central role in conveying the novel's themes and the complexities of the protagonist, Hagar Shipley.

How does the stone angel reflect Hagar Shipley's character?

The stone angel mirrors Hagar's stubbornness, pride, and emotional restraint. It also represents her isolation and loneliness. Over the course of the novel, it becomes a symbol of her potential for redemption and forgiveness.

What themes does the stone angel represent in the novel?

The stone angel symbolizes various themes, including family legacy, aging, mortality, pride, and the quest for redemption and forgiveness. It acts as a multifaceted symbol that enriches the narrative and provides insight into the human experience.

How does the stone angel evolve in the novel?

Throughout the novel, the stone angel's significance evolves as Hagar Shipley's character undergoes changes and self-reflection. In her final moments, it takes on a new meaning, representing the potential for redemption and forgiveness.

What is the connection between the stone angel and the town of Manawaka?

The stone angel symbolizes the enduring connection between Hagar Shipley and her hometown, Manawaka. It is a fixture in the town's cemetery and reflects the place's significance in Hagar's life.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.