Hagar is to Blame for her own Misfurtune in Margaret Lawrence's The Stone Angel

Hagar is to Blame for her own Misfurtune in Margaret Lawrence's The Stone Angel

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It is impossible to avoid unpleasant situations throughout an individual’s lifetime, especially if they are a result of bad luck or another combination of events beyond one’s control. Misfortune however can also be self-inflicted. This particular case is apparent in Margaret Lawrence’s The Stone Angel, a novel in which the protagonist, Hagar Shipley’s continuous misfortune is a direct result of several of her character flaws. An exaggerated sense of pride, a lack of compassion and empathy and an inability to communicate clearly are Hagar’s most prominent character flaws, and perpetually bring about misfortune.

Many of Hagar’s relationships have been hindered, or have eventually deteriorated as a result of her exaggerated sense of pride. Because of this her misfortune in relationships is self inflicted, as she decides consciously or unconsciously to sustain her pride rather than her relationships. When Hagar decides to marry Brampton Shipley, a man thought to be unsuitable for someone of her social status, her father literally forbids her to wed. He tells Hagar that his thoughts are solely for her welfare and that to marry without a fathers consent is simply not done. More to spite him rather than to defend her personal conviction, Hagar says “It’ll be done by me.” (Laurence 49). This defiant and rash remark results in the loss of her father’s relationship, and the loss of of her sound financial future, as Hagar is left no money in her father’s will. Her decision is clearly based on pride. Similar behavior is seen throughout the novel.

Another unattractive personality trait of Hagar’s is her insensitivity to others. Hagar consistently focuses on herself and does not empathize with others in a situation, regardless of their difficult circumstances. This is destructive to her relationships. Individuals would not feel as if they mattered. This lack of empathy also explains her inability to generate new relationships. An example is when Hagar’s son Marvin and daughter in law Doris, confront Hagar about their inadequate physical or emotional capabilities to care for her. They then suggest she move into a retirement home. After a long argument, Hagar is reduced to tears. Marvin and Doris are then distressed - Hagar simply says “Good. They’re frightened. I hope they’re scared to death.” (Lawrence 77). This lack of empathy causes Hagar’s insensitivity to Doris even though Doris herself is not in prime physical condition.

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Hagar does not analyze the situation and decides that Doris and Marvin are simply “ [consigning their] mother to the poorhouse.” (Lawrence 76). She does not realize that all they want is the best for her. Another event where Hagar demonstrates a lack of empathy is the pastor‘s house call as she is unable to go to church. After an unsuccessful attempt to comfort Hagar with casual conversation and spiritual fellowship, the pastor leaves. Without a reflection of the compassion of Mr Troy in the visit, Hagar simply comments to Doris later that he was a “rather stupid man…[and that] he should get a plate”( Lawrence 55) as his teeth are so bad. Not only is this superficial, it is also insensitive. Mr. Troy simply attempts to comfort a senior by the opportunity of someone to talk to , even confide in. The third event which undoubtedly demonstrates Hagar’s lack of sympathy and empathy takes place during the death of her brother Daniel as he suffers from a fatal episode of pneumonia. Daniel, delusional from the illness, needs the comfort of his mother during his final moments. When asked to assume her role even for a few minutes Hagar refuses and said “ to play at being her… was beyond [her]” (Laurence 25). She would not portray “the woman Dan was said to resemble so much… [as he] had inherited a frailty [she] could not help but detest.” (Laurence 25). This uncaring and selfish act towards Hagar’s own brother is exactly the the kind of callous behavior that costs her relationship with her sons, father and friends, and contributes to her misfortunes.

Also apparent throughout the novel is Hagar’s inability to communicate clearly with others. This is likely due to several factors, her own insecurity perhaps the most prominent. In her relationship with her family, Hagar seems unable to convey her affection or love for them. This idea is first introduced when Hagar describes her physical relationship with her husband Brampton Shipley. After a great deal of disdain for any sort of sexual act, Hagar “ soon.. felt [her] blood and vitals rise to meet [Bram’s].” (Lawrence 81). However, rather than inform him, she always led him to believe otherwise. She says that she “[prides herself] upon keeping her pride in tact.” (Lawrence 81). Not only does that reflect her exaggerated sense of pride, it shows that she is not secure enough to share her innermost feelings of intimacy even with her husband. If Hagar had confided in him, perhaps in return Bram may have done the same leading to a more close and solid relationship. Another incident in which Hagar fails to fully communicate how she feels to a member of her family is when Marvin is sent off to war. As any mother would Hagar says that upon his farewell she “wanted all at once to hold him tightly, plead with him… not to go.” (Lawrence 129). She, rather than do this, did not want Marvin “to think [she had] taken leave of her senses.” (Lawrence 129). In this particular incident again, Hagar is too insecure to convey her true, powerful feelings. Her inability to communicate her love however contributed to the ever-growing distance between her and Marvin. This ultimately leads to a fragile, almost non-existent relationship between Hagar and her eldest son. The relationship between Hagar and her grandson is similar. While in the hospital, Hagar is visited by many different people, one of whom is her grandson, Steven. Once again Hagar wants to tell him that “he is dear to [her], and would be so no matter what he’s like, or what he would do with his life.” (Lawrence 297). However, she simply says that “he’d only be embarrassed, and so would [she].” (Lawrence 297). It is all too apparent that Hagar cannot convey the personal emotions which help relationships thrive. As a result, Hagar’s relationships are bleak and fragile. This undoubtedly contributes a great deal to her misfortune.

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