The Stone Angel - Symbolism

Margaret Laurence?s novel, The Stone Angel is a compelling journey of flashbacks seen through the eyes of Hagar Shipley, a 90 year old woman nearing the end of her life. In the novel, Margaret Laurence, uses the stone angel to effectively symbolize fictional characters.
The term symbolism in its broadest sense means the use of an object to stand for something other than itself. In The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence uses the stone angel to sybmolize the Currie family values and pride and in particular, the pride and cold personality traits of Hagar Shipley. There are three primary areas where the stone angel is used to symbolize characters in the novel. They are: the Currie family pride as a symbol of egoism and materialism, Hagar?s lack of compassion for her family and friends as symbolized by a heart of stone, and Hagar?s blindness to the feelings and needs of the others as symbolized by the blindness of the angel.
The stone angel is symbolic of the Currie family pride and values. The stone angel memorial is purchased and brought from Italy by Jason Currie at great expense and placed at the grave site of his wife, in the Manawaka cemetery. The stone angel is the largest and most expensive memorial in the cemetery. Although the stone angel is intended to be a memorial for Mrs. Currie, it was not really suitable because Hagar describes her as being meek and a feeble ghost. The angel is not intended for Mrs. Currie, but in fact, represents the materialistic and egotistical values that characterizes Jason and later, Hagar. Jason purchases the stone angel in pride and not in grief over the death of this wife: "bought in pride to mark her bones and proclaim his dynasty, as he fancied, forever and a day." (Laurence 3) Jason?s strong ego is emplasized when, at this death, he leaves money to the town for a memorial park that would continue his family name.
The angel is symbolic of Hagar?s pride. Hagar seems to be madeof stone, like the angel. Hagar?s strong pride does not allow her to express her true emotions for fear that she will appear to be soft and weak. As a child, when Jason punishes her, she is determined not to cry:
I wouldn?t let him see my cry, I was so enraged. He used a
foot ruler, and when I jerked my smarting palms back, he
made me hold them out again. He looked at my dry eyes in
a kind of fury? (9)

It was her pride that keeps her from speaking up and fighting for her brother, Matt when Jason sends her away to college to become more civilized. Although Hagar knows Matt deserves to go more than she does, her pride prevents her from showing her true feelings to Matt:
I wanted to tell Matt I knew he should have been the one to
go east, but I could not speak of it to him? When it came
to saying good-bye to Matt, at first I avoided his eyes but then
I thought- why on earth should I? So I looked at him squarely
and said good-bye so evenly and calmly you?d have thought I
was going over to South Wachakwa or Freehold and would be
back that evening. Later in the train, I cried, thinking of him,
but of course, he never knew that, and I?d have been the last to
tell him. (42)

Hagar is just as hard and cold hearted as the stone angel. Hagar never reveals her feelings, and for this reason, she is not able to develop genuine relationships. Her pride prevents her from showing emotions she feels and also prevents her from dealing with the strong emotions of others:
"She?s everything in the world to me," Lottie said?"I lost two
before I finally had her? you don?t know -"
And then I did know, and cursed myself for my meanness
before, for thinking myself the only one. (212)

In this quote, Hagar realizes that she has been very unappreciative of Lottie and her
feelings. Hagar recognizes that she is only thinking of herself. When their brother Dan is dying and needs comfort, Matt suggests Hagar wear their mother?s shawl to comfort Dan. Hagar?s pride prevents her from doing this:
But all I could think of was that meek woman I?d never seen,
the woman Dan said to resemble