The Stone Angel
A Life Of Regret
As one reflects on the past, he or she will be full of pride and guilt. Margaret Laurence uses her protagonist Hagar Shipley from her fictional novel The Stone Angel to explain bitterness, longing, and reverence is the result of contemplating the past. Despite being born a Currie, Hagar is unable to possess the honor that the Currie name symbolizes. As a result, Hagar lives a life of bitterness and longs for the relationships she could not attain due to unwillingness to express emotion. In her old age, Hagar consumes herself with pride and guilt when she ponders the past.
Throughout her life, Hagar tries to live in accordance to the Currie name. The prestige that comes with the Currie name is what Hagar deeply respects and longs for. Mrs. Shipley first shows her affection of the Currie name when she reminisces to her childhood. Hagar is fond of her reputable father as she refers to him as a “self-made man” who “had pulled himself by the bootstraps” (Laurence 7). She is proud of her father’s ability to rise from an initial state of poverty to a prominent figure in the community. Moreover, Hagar admires the family lineage and holds it in high regard: “The Curries are Highlanders… The Highlanders must be the most fortunate men on Earth” (Laurence 15). Later on in the novel, Hagar shows her respect to the Currie name by bestowing the family treasure to her son John Shipley: ”I gave him the Currie-plaid pin” (Laurence 124.) Hagar’s actions show that she respects and longs for the status that comes with being a Currie. Thus, it is no surprise that the failure to retain her prominence as a Currie results in a life of bitterness and regret.
Hagar regrets certain decisions that result in her loss of status. One major decision Hagar regrets is her marriage to Brampton Shipley. In the past, she use to believe that she could change Bram to be more respectful; “In those days I still hoped he’d do well” (Laurence 84). However, she quickly realizes that Bram will not be able to change to become more reputable. In fact, Bram proves to be detrimental to Hagar’s appearance in Manawaka as Bram “relieved himself…against the steps of the Currie store” (Laurence 115). Furthermore, Hagar’s act of marrying Bram causes her to causes her father, Jason Currie, to abandon her. Jason does not approve of this marriage and decides to give the inheritance money to the city when he passes away. As a result, Hagar is left struggling with Bram. In addition, she resents “Lottie No-Name” (Laurence 11) because Lottie goes from poverty to marrying into wealth and status, whereas Hagar loses her status when she marries Bram. Hagar, who is prideful of her Currie name does not acknowledge that she is no longer a Currie becomes bitter as a result. Later, Hagar becomes easily angered since Doris and Marvin are taking care of her in her old age, but Hagar thinks they are stripping her of her independence. Similarly, Hagar views emotion as sign of weakness which leads her to appear tough. Unfortunately, Hagar pushes the people close to her away because of being emotionless. Hagar’s inability to accept the loss of her Currie status inadvertently leads to a bitter life. Moreover, Hagar’s mistakes causes her to long for relationships.
In her later stages, Hagar regrets breaking certain ties. Hagar wishes that she could see her father again, or at least get him to visit her son: “A great pity your grandfather never saw you” (Laurence 123). Also, Hagar does not want to remain in her father’s disapproval. Furthermore, Hagar wishes that she could visit her brother Matt, but her pride pulls her back. The main reason why Hagar does not apologize to anyone, or try to establish relationships is because she feels she would appear weak. Similarly, Hagar longs for Bram to act reputable to avoid ruining Hagar’s public figure. During the visit to the cemetery, Hagar states that “I wish he [John Currie, her son] could have looked like Jacob then, wrestling with the angel and besting it… But no “ (Laurence 179). What Hagar means, is that she desires that John would try her best to please her, as she is the stone angel. However, John proves to be just like Bram and more affectionate to him then Hagar. Nevertheless, Hagar no longer wants to be isolated and wants to live a life of respect, such as her father’s.
As Hagar ages, Hagar becomes more prideful to overcome feelings of guilt and inferiority. In spite of being born a Currie, Hagar can not hold on to the reputation that her father built. Subsequently, Mrs. Shipley lives in sorrow since she can not reconcile with her family members. She scrutinizes over her mistake of marrying Bram, but does not make any steps to make up with her father. In addition, her perception of displaying emotion as a weakness does not allow her to make new relationships or maintain them. Hagar believes that she “was alone, never anything else, and never free” (Laurence 292). However, the inability to express feelings is what drives her to be alone. In other words, Hagar isolates herself. Nevertheless, Margaret Laurence uses Hagar Shipley to explain that despair, desire, and admiration is the outcome of dwelling on the past. Therefore, when one ruminates about the past, he or she will be prideful and regret certain decisions.