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Flower Imagery in The Stone Angel
Margaret Laurence uses flower imagery in her novel The Stone Angel to represent Hagar's way of life. There are two types of flowers, wild and civilized. These two types of flowers are associated with the educated, controlled way of life and the material way of life.
In summer the cemetery was rich and thick as syrup with the funeral-parlor perfume of the planted peonies, dark crimson and wallpaper pink, the pompous blossoms hanging leadenly, too heavy for their light stems, bowed down with the weight of themselves and the weight of the rain, infested with upstart ants that sauntered through the plush petals as though to the manner born . . . But sometimes through to hot rush of disrespectful wind whtat shook the scrub oak and the coarse couchgrass encroaching upon the dutifully cared for habitations of the dead, the scent of the cowslips woud rise monentarily. They were though-rooted, these wild and gaudy flowers, and altough they were held back at the cemetery's edge, torn out by loving relatives determined to keep the plots clear and clealy civilized, for a second or two a person walking there could catch the faint, muskey, dust-tinged smell of things that grew and had grown always, before the portly peonies and the angels with rigid wings, when the prarie bluffs were walked though only by Cree with enigmatic faces and greasy hair. (p. 4-5)
Hagar was the lucky one in her family. She was able to go to college where she learned how to be more cultivated and civilized and how to act like a lady. Nothing seems to be natural about her, she criticizes everything that seems to be wild or out of control. When Hagar marries Bram Shipley, she is content and in love.
It was spring that day, a differnt spring from this one. The poplar bluffs had budded with sticky leaves, and the forgs had come back to te sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, an th mars marigolds were opening like shavings of sun on the brown river where the dadpoles danced and the bloodsuckers lay slimy and low, waiting fo the boy's feet. And i rode int blacke-topped buggy beside the man who was no my mate. (p. 50)
After the wedding, Hagar becomes determined to change the way her husband behaves.
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The references dealing with cultivated flowers are grim. They have the smell of a funeral-parlor and speak of death and emptiness, almost like Hagar's aging life.
"I would not expect her to know that the lilies of the valley, so white and almost too strongly sweet, were the flowers we used to weave into the wreaths for the dead" (p. 33).
In her old age, Hagar realizes that her life was bleak. She did not let anything about herself go free. She wanted to be well known as an educated, independent woman who needed no help from anyone, yet she fails in the end having to depend on her own son, Marivn, and his wife. Her flowers deteriorate just the same as Hagar grows old.
My marigolds were a dead loss by this time, of course. I'd planted them behind the house to use as cutting flowers and they'd kept on seeding themselves, but now only a few wizened ones remained, small enexpected dabs of orange among the choking weeds, dry sheepfoot and thistle. The sunflowers had risen beside the barn as always, fed by the melting snow in the spring, but the'd had no other water this year - their tall stalks were hollow and brown, and the heavy heads hung over, the segments empty as unfulled honey-combs, for the petals had fallen and the centers had dried before the seeds could form." (p. 169)
At the end of the novel, before Hagar dies, she realizes that her life was empty with all the wrong decisions. She faked her whole life being strong and civilized when she should have been alive and spontaneous.
"I take off my hat - it's hardly suitable for here, anyway, a prim domestic hat sprouting cultivated flowers. Then with considerable care I arrange the jades and copper pieces in my hair. I glance into my purse mirror. The effect is pleasing. They liven up my gray, transform me."