Hagar Shipley’s Character and His Development in The Stone Angel
In The Stone Angel, Hagar Shipley, age ninety, tells the story of her life, and in doing so tries to come to terms with how her personal attributes deprived her of joy throughout her life. Raised with the stern virtues of her pioneer ancestors, bestowed upon her through her father, Hagar becomes a tragic hero through a life of uncompromising pride — a pride which sustained her during a stormy marriage and which overpowered her ability to admit that she has made mistakes and ultimately contributing to her overall stubbornness and inability to acheive a warm, satisfying relationship with anyone in her life.
For Hagar Shipley, a woman with great independence and dignity, living in a world of appearances was an intrinsic routine she endured everyday. Revealing emotion to others, even to her own father, was something she sometimes wanted to do; but, she just was not capable of doing so. The values instilled upon her when she was a child were those of appearing strong and independent at all times, believing wholeheartedly that showing any kind emotion was a sign of weakness. “Gainsay who dare” was the family’s motto, and for someone like Hagar to show emotion, she would have to had to have been dared. Eventually, Hagar’s solution to a difficult situation was to simply ignore it and hide from her problems instead of dealing with them in a mature fashion. Unfortunately for Hagar, this approach eventually blocked everyone out of her life and she was unable to really open up to anyone around her, eventually introverting her life so that she would not need to open up to anyone else.
Hagar’s marriage to Bram was an utter failure, even from the very beginning and should have never taken place at all. With Hagar already acting as if she is trying to put on a show for everyone, having to constantly correct Bram’s use of the English language simply worsened her state since she was only hurting her own pride when she did this. On their wedding night Bram gave Hagar a vase and said, “This here’s for you, Hagar,” (Pg. 51) while most people would have been overwhelmed with emotions from the kind offering, that they would not cared how he said it, but Hagar is too focussed on Bram’s grammatical errors that she just sets the vase aside and “..thought no more about it.” (Pg. 51) However, if Hagar would have listened to her father and married a man with a higher sense of decency and conveyed the same amount of pride as Hagar, she could have helped her own situation by giving herself someone which she could open up to and relate to. Ever since birth Hagar has had nobody there for her. Her mother dying when she was born, her only siblings were two older brothers and Hagar was constantly putting on a show for her friends, so there was nobody for her.
The stone angel is Hagar’s mothers tombstone. Hagar describes it as the, “…first, the largest, and certainly the costliest. The others as I recall, were a lesser breed entirely, petty angels cherubim with pouting stone mouths…” (Pg. 4) Her pride is clearly shown through this description. She holds her family in the highest, and she makes this evident by calling all other’s “…a lesser breed.” There are several other examples of Hagar’s pride. The stone angel itself is symbolic of it. Hagar clearly makes the comparison herself when she describes how she feels in the present: “My bed is cold as winter, and now it seems to me that I am lying as children used to do, on fields of snow, and they would spread their arms and weep them down to their sides, and when they rose there would be the outline of an angel, with spread wings.” (Pg. 81) She feels like the angel, a monument symbolic to her pride: a towering figure over others; a clear elite to the “lesser breads”. This is truly ironic since Hagar is not higher than anyone else; but simply a lower class woman, working with nothing but her introvert pride.
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