In Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, the main character Hagar Shipley refused to compromise which shaped the outcome of her life as well as the lives of those around her.  “Pride was my wilderness and the demon that led me there was fear… [I was] never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all I touched.” (Laurence, 292).  Hagar’s pride and stubbornness were the causes of her failed relationships and lack of love in her life.

Her excessive pride destroyed her relationships with her father, brother and husband.  It also led to the death of her son John.  Her stubbornness caused her marriage to dissolve, Marvin to be unhappy, her daughter-in-law’s frustration, and her own death.

Hagar’s overwhelming pride was the reason she could not show love nor affection to those around her.  She inherited her pride from her father and from an early age she always refused to show emotion because she was too proud to let anyone see her weaknesses.  Her father made aware that she had “backbone” (p.10) and that “she took after him” (p.10). 

The first sign of Hagar’s excessive pride was shown when her father scolded her for telling a customer that there were bugs in the barrel of raisins.  She refused to cry before and after the punishment: “I wouldn’t let him see me cry, I was so enraged” (p.9).  She continued to build a wall around herself to hide her emotions.  Her pride interfered with many relationships in her life. 

When her brother Dan was dying, her other brother Matt asked her to put on her mother’s shawl and pretend to be her to comfort Dan.  Hagar refused: ‘…however much a part of me wanted to sympathize.  To play at being her- it was beyond me” (p.25).  Hagar was too proud to pretend to be her weak mother even for her dying brother.  Matt resented the fact that Hagar refused to do a favour for Dan and therefore Matt and Hagar’s relationship was ruined. 

Even though Hagar got married to Bram she didn’t really feel any love for him.  Her “hoity-toity” (p.06) attitude prevented her from showing emotion and tenderness towards her husband.  She never let him know how she felt about him: “… I never let him knew.  I never spoke aloud… I prided myself on keeping my pride intact” (p.81).  Hagar’s pride also destroyed her relationship with her son John.  One night John brought Arlene home to stay but Hagar was too proud to let her stay and refused. 

They were later killed in a car accident and Hagar then realised that if she had compromised then maybe they would have been alive.  She apologised too late: “I didn’t mean it, about not bring her here… You could come here in the evenings.  I wouldn’t say a word” (p.247).  When Hagar saw Arlene’s dead body the matron told her to, “Cry.  Let yourself.  It’s the best thing” (p.242). 

However she was too proud to let anyone see her cry.  “I shoved her [matron’s] arms away.  I straightened my spine… I wouldn’t cry in front of strangers, whatever it cost me” (p.242).  She realised too late that her pride got in the way of her son’s happiness and after her son’s death she was unable to show any emotions.  Hagar’s pride and her lack of emotions ruined her relationships with her father, brother, husband and son.

Hagar’s stubbornness was another cause of her and her family’s unhappiness.  Due to her stubbornness, Hagar didn’t find true love.  When her father and Lottie said that he was, “as common as dirt” (p.48) she refused to compromise.  Her father again explained that “there’s not a decent girl in this town would wed without her family’s consent…It’s not done” (p.49).  Then with her stubborn way she replied, “It’ll be done by me” (p.49).  After her marriage with Bram, her and her father stopped speaking and her marriage with Bram ended with their separation. 

As Hagar got older she required more care.  Hagar’s daughter-in-law, Doris was always trying to help, but Hagar was unwilling to let anyone help her out: “Leave me, leave me be–” (p.31).  Even when Marvin tried helping she would just decline and reply, “I can manage quite well, thank- you… go on now for pity’s sake” (p.33). 

When Doris and Marvin suggested putting Hagar in an old age home, she refused, “I won’t go there… The two of you can move out.  Go ahead and move right now” (p.57).  Hagar’s stubbornness and refusal to compromise caused frustration for Doris and Marvin.  In the end, Hagar’s stubbornness killed her.  The nurse at the hospital tried to help her drink the water but Hagar felt that she could do it on her own, she was wrong.  “I only defeat myself for not accepting her.  I know this- I know this very well. 

But I can’t help it- it’s my nature… I’d think her daft and push her hands away, certain I could hold it for her better… I hold it in my hands.  There.  There.  And then-” (p.308).  Hagar’s stubbornness got in the way of her and her family’s happiness and destroyed her and the lives of those she cared about.

In conclusion, Hagar’s Shipley’s refusal to compromise, due to her excessive pride and stubbornness shaped the outcome of her life and those around her.  Her pride destroyed her relationships with her father, brother, husband, and her son John.  Her stubbornness denied happiness for her marriage, Marvin and Doris.  It also led to the cause of her own death.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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