Burial Rites

Agnes’s Mother’s Stone Symbol Analysis

Agnes’s Mother’s Stone Symbol Icon

Ingveldur gave Agnes a stone when she left Agnes, telling her that, if she put the stone under her tongue, she could speak with birds. According to Agnes, it never worked, but she still keeps the stone until it’s taken away from her when she is arrested. This stone and its lack of utility seem to represent Agnes’s mother’s many failures regarding her daughter. It also reflects Agnes’s desire to decode the symbols in the natural world around her. When Agnes is leaving Kornsá for her execution, she believes that she feels the stone in her mouth and spits it out. While it seems that this may have been Agnes’s imagination acting up due to her distress, the fact that Agnes has, at least mentally, had the stone under her tongue the whole time suggests that Agnes has always possessed an ability to understand and perceive elements of the natural world that are inaccessible to most people.

Agnes’s Mother’s Stone Quotes in Burial Rites

The Burial Rites quotes below all refer to the symbol of Agnes’s Mother’s Stone. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay Books edition of Burial Rites published in 2014.
Chapter 13 Quotes

I am crying and my mouth is open and filled with something, it is choking me and I spit it out. On the ground is a stone, and I look back at Margrét, and see that she did not notice. “The stone was in my mouth,” I say.

Related Characters: Agnes Magnúsdottir (speaker), Margrét, Ingveldur Rafnsdóttir
Related Symbols: Agnes’s Mother’s Stone
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:

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Agnes’s Mother’s Stone Symbol Timeline in Burial Rites

The timeline below shows where the symbol Agnes’s Mother’s Stone appears in Burial Rites. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The traditional furniture and everyday objects in the room make Agnes think of the stone that her mother Ingveldur gave her. Ingveldur said the stone would allow Agnes to talk... (full context)
Chapter 5
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...being thrown out. The family then returned to Kornsá, and Agnes’s mother gave her the talking-stone and abandoned her, taking only Jóas. Agnes only learned later that her mother had another... (full context)
Chapter 13
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
...to make Agnes eat, but she does not want to. What she wants is the stone Ingveldur gave her to talk to birds. Agnes imagines herself lost and lonely in the... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
...has something in her mouth and spits it out. She sees that it is a stone (though it’s unclear whether the stone is actually there or Agnes is hallucinating it). (full context)