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"the Stone Angel" Essay

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The Stone Angel

Margaret Laurence's story of The Stone Angel is about the life Hagar Currie an emotionless, stubborn and proud woman. Margaret Laurence uses this stone angel, originally bought by Hagar's father, to embody the qualities of Hagar. These virtues are often identical to those one assumes are possessed by the stone angel and are paralleled many times by Laurence. Throughout the novel, Hagar relives her life through her memories.

Over the course of the novel, one realizes that Hagar's loneliness and depression are, in fact, brought on by her pride, detached emotions, obstinacy and ignorance which she uses, subconsciously or not, to push those who love her most away. Hagar Currie was incapable of loving others, much like the stone angel which had been so inappropriately bought to mark the death of Mrs. Currie. The statue, however, can also represent the characteristics of Hagar's father, Jason Currie, whom Hagar undoubtedly inherited her personality from. The pride she inherits from her father seems to be the root cause of most of her problems throughout her life.

One of the most dominant themes in The Stone Angel is pride. Pride is a proper sense of own value. Most of the solitude on Hagar's life comes from her firm belief that she is socially better than everyone else, regardless of what obstacles and choices she makes, regardless of how many times she errs, or fails. This trait is inherited from her father as he also believes that he stands, socially, and often financially, above most people in the town. Even the stone angel was bought from Italy to show the wealth and power of Jason Currie. "She was not the only angel in the Manawaka cemetery, but she was the firs, the largest, and certainly the costliest. The others I recall were a lesser breed entirely, petty angels, cherubim with putting stone mouths, one holding aloft a stone heart, another strumming in eternal silence upon a small stone stringless harp..." (Page 4) Perhaps it was he who taught her to be proud, "I and Luke McVitie must've given the most, as he called our names the first." (Page 16). Hagar herself recalls her pride even as a child, "There was I, strutting the board sidewalk like a pint-sized peacock, resplendent, haughty, hoity-toity, Jason Currie's black-haired daughter." (Page 6) Even after Hagar is married, and money is tight, she insists on dressing her son in more expensive clothing, "...Marvin the day he started school, wearing a sailor suit and a face blank as water. He hated that navy-blue suit with the anchor on the collar, for most of the other boys wore overalls. I soon gave up trying to dress him decently, and let him wear overalls, too. We hadn't the money for fancy clothes anyway. Bram's daughters used to give me the overalls their boys had grown out of. How it galled me to take anything from Jess and Gladys..." (Page 69) There is yet another form of pride most easily shown in the fact that, through Hagar's long and troubled life, through all the tragedies and deaths of relations, she cries but once or twice in the company of others. "I prided myself upon keeping my pride intact, like some maidenhead." (Page 81) However, despite her inability to cry at the deaths of her relations, Hagar is one day moved when a young girl stands up, and gives her seat to Hagar on the bus. "A teenage girl in a white and green striped dress, a girl green and tender as new Swiss chard, rises and gives me her seat. How very kind of her. I can scarcely nod my thanks, fearing she'll see my unseemly tears. And once again it seems an oddity, that I should have remained unweeping over my dead men and now possess two deep salt springs in my face over such a triviality as this. There's no explaining it." (Page 92) Self-pride, to Hagar, is similar to possessing one's virginity, giving her a sense of decency and well-being. Just as Hagar believes she is above everyone else, she believes the stone angel is above all the other gravestones describing them as petty and insufficient.

Hagar's ability to bottle up her emotions and display only robotic feelings towards others begins in her childhood, and grows to be something she does habitually in the latter parts of her life. "I wouldn't let him see me 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, as though he'd failed unless he drew water from them." (Page 9) Hagar's father straps her hands with a ruler but even as a child, she will not let her tears be seen, she will not let him see that he is hurting her. Even when her brother Dan is near death, she will not comfort him, for it requires that she act as their mother, which to her is despicable. "But all I could think of was that meek woman I'd never seen, the woman Dan was said to resemble so much an from whom he'd inherited a frailty I could not help but detest, however much a part of me wanted to sympathize." Hagar cannot bear the thought of pretending to be someone as feeble and weak as their mother. Throughout her marriage, Hagar never lets Bram know that she enjoyed their lovemaking. "He never knew. I never let him know, it was all inner. (Page 81) When Hagar's husband Bram dies she does not shed a tear, not even when there is only her son to witness it. "But when we'd buried Bram and come home again and lighted lamps for the evening, it was John who cried, not I." (Page 184) Still, when her son John dies she does not weep, as if she had been born without tear ducts. "The night my son died I was transformed into stone and never wept at all" (Page 243) Hagar believed that if she cried she it would not only damage her pride but make her appear weak. "What a disgrace to be seen crying by that fat Doris" (Page 6) "I wouldn't cry in front of strangers, whatever it cost me." (Page 242) She could never allow others to know how she felt. She had built up walls so strong; no one could ever get through them. Hagar was and remained emotionless throughout her entire life. The stone angel watching over the city never shed a tear, rarely did she. Her inability to express her own emotions led to her ignorance of others and their emotions.

Hagar Currie, who became Hagar Shipley, was very stubborn throughout her life but became even more so as the years went by. She is very set on doing whatever she grew up doing and does not recognize the value of any of the suggestions or ideas put forth by others. She becomes very annoyed and angry when she is told what to do. The most prominent example of this attribute is when Hagar is brought to view Silverthreads



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