Most people think that engagement rings symbolize marriage. They're an accessory that (usually) women in the Western world wear to show the commitment they've made to get hitched to some swell guy. For Angela, though, an engagement ring begins to signify a trap, pushing her into an uncomfortable social position, one in which she's only defined by the man to whom she's married. The ring also reminds her of all the things she hasn't done, and the ways in which she's not independent. No wonder it seems to be giving her a rash. Wearing her ring both gives her the identity of a doctor's wife and limits her to it – nothing more, nothing less. As the novel unfolds, we see that there's so much more Angela wants to be.