Stone Angel Essay – Pride
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Pride has many benefits and many downfalls. Many qualities of pride can be beneficial, to be proud of family or friends can be uplifting and can form strong bonds. But pride can also mask genuine human emotions; stop those who feel pride from showing vulnerability, or weakness. The qualities of pride itself can be complex and inconceivable, like many human qualities. Each particular emotion has diverse and opposite effects, pride for example can be a word used to describe utter happiness and fulfillment, while others can use pride to close themselves off. In the book Stone Angel, written by the well known author Margaret Laurence, pride is often portrayed as a negative quality. It is used as a shield, a protection from pain and loss. When pride is allowed to take over, people may use it in order to uphold a certain appearance.
People who allow their pride to create an image they must upload, it inevitably isolates them from other which enables them to revive their lost sense of humanity. Secondly, some people are too proud to show femininity, they associate it with weakness. Their inability to be a caring and compassionate individual causes them to lose those closest to them. Isolation from love causes them to release the repressed emotions and become liberated. Lastly, people who allow their pride to stop them from showing vulnerability cause those around them to become hardened and distant. The isolation as a result of this causes the individual to liberate themselves from the shackles of their pride and embrace their true self. Those who allow pride to be a hindrance from embracing their true self, consequently alienate themselves from the world around them. This isolation allows for an awakening, and in turn causes them to realize the faults in their actions.
When pride is allowed to take over, people may use it in order to uphold a certain appearance. People who allow their pride to become overbearing to the point where a certain image must be upheld, inevitably cause themselves to become recluse. Then from this they learn to realize the negative result of pride and its superficial undertones. Hagar fortunately enough had a family that was well-to-do, from a young age she was instilled with morals and values. These teachings are mostly inherited from her father Jason Currie, a self made man. Jason taught her that appearances are important and that how you appear to others dictates how your life will be. Hagar is imbued with a stubborn pride that prevents her from ever weaning from her astute appearance. Hagar’s father thankfully has enough money to afford to send Hagar to a private school in Toronto, where early on she is instilled with knowledge of proper appearance and behavior.
Initially Hagar is immensely attracted t the rugged unshaved texture of Bram’s face, she feels adventurous while she is with him, but as time goes on, and her fixation with her public image impedes her from fully accepting her husband and embracing their relationship. “He was quite right that I never cared for Horses…I never felt I could handle them. I didn’t let Bram see I was afraid” (83), Hagar’s pride over her prim and proper appearance disallowed her to try anything new for fear of failing. Hagar was afraid of horses and therefore could not support her husband and his passion, she was afraid that if she were to feign interest in horses than he would find out she was afraid. Hagar’s inability to show a softer side of herself inevitably prevented her from opening up and bonding with her husband, causing her to become alone and disassociated with her relationship.
Hagar’s unwavering concern for her appearance stops her from meandering. Her obsession with having a constant and perfect image same prevents her from sharing that certain closeness with her husband that anyone longs to feel. Because of her pride, and her concern for aesthetics, Hagar purposely pushes Bram away at a crucial and momentous part of their lives. She is pregnant and ready to have their first child, and Hagar still wonders if she is ready, or if she just does not want the child to be his. She is so ashamed of being seen with him that she does not want anyone to know that she has had his child. Her deliberate isolation pushed Bram away, and because of this, they miss a crucial moment of bonding with one another. Her fixation with only letting Bram see her a certain way, causes her to become recluse at the moment of this important event, pushing him further away, “When we got to the hospital, I told him to go. ‘You’re not scared, Hagar, are you?’… I only shook my head. I couldn’t speak, nor reach him in any way at all” (100).
She communicates to him that she does not want him to witness her giving birth, for fear of what she would look like or do. Deep inside she hoped that he would get the subtle hint of her fear without her having to say it; she is disappointed when he does not catch on but irregardless, she has the child without him present. Hagar continually attempts to housebreak Bram into being a ‘suitable’ husband; her attempts are fruitless and only widen the gap between them. “I could have been proud, going to town or church with him, if only he’d never opened his mouth” (69-70), her pride prevents her from being close with her husband, from accepting him and embracing him. Her fixation with her appearance, especially in the house of god impedes them from doing any activities together for fear of being seen. In doing so, Hagar alienates herself from the relationship, causing her to become lonely and isolated even more so than she was before.
She has removed herself from the relationship so much so that Bram seems unimpressed by her leaving, he even seems surprised when she does not scorn him in a day, “Sometimes, if there had ebeen no argument between us in the day, he would say he was sorry, sorry to bother me, as though it were an affliction with him” (116). Bram Shipley loved Hagar dearly, as she did him, but her constant nagging and embarrassment caused him to become a defeated man, he gave up trying to show her love and be himself in an accepting relationship and focused on treading lightly around her as to not evoke her wrath. Because of Hagar’s pride, and her unwillingness to accept Bram at face value, she caused herself to lose the connection and love between them, merely provoking the ongoing drift of their two very different worlds. As Hagar continues to disavow Bram, she continues to withdraw from the relationship inevitably trapping herself in a cycle of negativity endlessly mounting until the point where she could never possibly irradiate the damage caused between them.
A drifter through reality, Hagar in her old age drifts in and out of perceived reality, constantly reminiscing about old times, trying to rethink situations and repair history in her mind. Although consciously unaware of her real intent on escaping and fleeing to Shadow point, she really wants to re-connect to herself and Grapple with her unwavering pride inevitably releasing herself from the grip it has had in her life. Through this isolation in the wilderness she realized that she has been figuratively wandering through wilderness her whole life, unaware of the feelings of people around her. As she stumbles to self-realization she spends much time reflecting on the mistakes in her past. In one moving confession to Murray Lees, she releases all of the hate for god, and anger with the world. Her journey to self-cleanse has begun and Hagar is finally able to open her eyes to reality and begin to accept life and love in the last legs of her journey: Every good joy I might have held, in my man or any child of mine or even the plain light of morning, of walking the earth, all were forced to a standstill by some brake of proper appearances – oh, proper to whom? When did I ever speak the heart’s truth? (292)
Every possibly moment of happiness that Hagar could have blessed herself with was turned down and abjured by her, having her child with Bram should have been a moment of rejoice, but instead Hagar made it a chore. She finally comes to the realization that her happiness is not dependent on how she appears, but how she interacts with the loved ones in her life. She begins to realize that she has been unfaithful to her inner self all of these years, and that she has never been able to express how her heart truly feels, for fear of rejection. Hagar unequivocally has caused many negative things to happen in her life merely because of her pride. Her inability to take a chance and express herself caused many people around her to pull away. Hagar inevitably realizes the importance of human love and interaction, irregardless of the appearance of it. The isolation she caused herself left her with many unrecoverable emotional scars which she carried with her. Inevitably Hagar comes to realize that appearance is not what is important, but that the experiences in life that bond people are.
Similarly some people are too proud to show femininity, they associate it with weakness. Their inability to be a caring and compassionate individual causes them to lose those closest to them. Isolation from love causes them to realize that their actions were faulty. Hagar Currie grows up in a household filled with boys, she lacked the feminine influence of a mother and therefore lacked the ability to embrace her femininity. Hagar is raised in a very traditionalistic way by her father Jason Currie; she is raised in a highly religious household which imbues her with the moral foundation that will prove integral to Hagar’s person. Hagar associated her mother’s death with weakness, “her who relinquished her feeble ghost as I gained my stubborn one,” (3). Hagar displays many qualities of her father but not many of her mothers; she tends to correspond weakness with the feminine qualities of her mother, “‘You take after me,’ he said, as though that made everything clear.
‘You’ve got a backbone, ill give you that'” (10), taking after her father, Hagar is looked at as special. Jason Currie still loves her more and is appreciative the qualities he sees mirrored in her. This preferential treatment because of her dissimilarities with her mother, teaches Hagar that being like her mother is negative. Hagar is imbued with the teachings of her father, strength and an unwavering pride. Hagar is likewise; proud of her likeness with her father, “I wouldn’t let him see me cry” (9), her inability to display any quality that is feminine is indicative of the values her father taught her. He always rewarded her when she was strong; he would behave proudly of how alike they were. Hagar’s pride disabled her from being able to embrace her feminine side, among other things, her pride as stopped her from truly bonding with others and accepting herself as is. Hagar’s innate ability to push those close to her away, allows for her pride to take over and mask any inkling of feminine qualities she may have inherited. This use of pride, to hinder her from showing femininity allows her to create unfortunate circumstances for herself, in which she will realize the consequences of her ways.
Hagar Shipley’s ongoing intolerance of feminine qualities inevitably results in a consequence for Hagar and her relationship with Bram. Hagar has always been intolerant of womanly and soft qualities, when her life with Bram begins, she finds it hard to commit to the relationship physically. Having grown up in the highly religious Victorian household of Jason Currie, Hagar logically absorbed most of Jason’s assertive self-made, proud and stubborn personality. Unfortunately, the principles that are enshrined in Hagar by her father, prevent her from expressing the true depth of her womanhood. Hagar manifests a damaging link between femininity and frailty. This association and its link to the prideful intolerance for weakness within herself, prevents her from taking true pleasure in her relationship with Bram, ultimately devastating the link between them:…when first I felt my blood and vitals rise to meet his.
He never knew. I never let him know. I never spoke aloud, and I made certain that the trembling was all inner… I prided myself upon keeping my pride intact… (81)Hagar Shipley could not bear to express the joy she took from being a woman. She could not express any happiness that came from being associated with femininity, and it was her pride that hindered her from expressing this joy to Bram. It was a different time back then, she was unaware of how other women felt or acted during marital bliss, she had no mother to explain this to her. One again Hagar’s pride inhibits her from expressing concern in this matter. Had Hagar Shipley told Bram of her pleasure and her feelings, she may have been able to save the relationship. Her inability to play the woman’s role in the relationship other than house work, caused her and Bram to drift apart. The part of a woman that any man longs for once they are married was always held from Bram, causing him to become apathetic in the relationship. Hagar and her immense pride, to show that she is not a weak woman, caused her relationship with Bram whom she loved dearly, to slowly fade away into nothingness.
Long after this, Hagar is entering the last stretches of her life, in a desperate flee to Shadow Point, she begins to drift in and out of reality, and reflects on the past, “I weary of the game. I’m like the children, playing house. I’ve nothing better to do. And now I remember some other children, once, playing at house, but in a somewhat different manner” (192). Hagar remembers the time they had together, and reflects on whether or not it was a true relationship. Hagar shows that she realizes the faults in their relationship because she exhibits that she was aware of the underlying troubles. Hagar knows that on the outside her relationship with Bram looks like a household, and a family, but deep down she identifies that she was unable to fulfill the feminine duties of her relationship, causing it to fail. She recognizes that it only appeared to be a household from the outside but truly they were only playing house.
Through Hagar’s prideful nature, she suppresses her feminine emotions, her aloofness and denial of Bram further isolates herself from any palpable example of a healthy man and woman relationship. It is in her retreat from reality that Hagar is able, finally to meet her true self as a woman, through changing the course of her life and renewal of consciousness. When individuals are reserved and are unable to exhibit feminine qualities due to an overactive prejudice towards weakness, they undermine their happiness by separating themselves loved ones. It is then through this isolation, that these individuals are finally able to recognize their femininity and deliver themselves from sorrow.
People who allow their pride to stop them from showing vulnerability cause those around them to become hardened and distant. The isolation as a result of this causes the individual to liberate themselves from the shackles of their pride and embrace themselves fully. Hagar Currie or Hagar Shipley, has since her birth, been raised to be strong and proud. At the time of her birth, a simultaneous event happened, the death of her mother. Her father, Jason Currie therefore raised her to be strong and stubborn like him. Because her birth caused her mothers death, she always associated her mother with weakness. She plainly stated that her brothers were weaklings, she believes that she is nothing like her mother and that her brothers take more after her than she, “my brothers took after our mother, graceful unspirited boys…”(7). She connotes that she sees them with as having a negative weak image, displaying her distaste for vulnerability and meekness. Her strong and proud attitude unfortunately pushes many people away.
Her figurative stone-ness causes her to feel impervious to pain and heart ache. Her lack of human connection to others is what causes most of the short-comings in her life, she learns this through many years of tragedy and ache. Hagar Shipley is too proud to show when she is afraid, to proud to show when she is lonely or in love. Her fear of taking that leap of faith and showing vulnerability stops her from enjoying many experiences in her life. Because so many people she loved have died in her life, she feels as though she must upkeep this barrier that keeps all of the pain away. When Hagar’s favorite son John passes away, she refuses to let anyone see her cry, she is afraid that if other people are aware of her sorrow than it will become too real and she will not be able to conceal it from herself, “I straightened my spine, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life, to stand straight then.
I wouldn’t cry in front of strangers, whatever it cost me” (242). Hagar’s Shipley is too proud to show any sign of vulnerability, this proves to be a disadvantage in her life, stemming from a taught stubbornness that is too immense to be defeated. She is so prideful that even in this horrible moment, she puts herself through the agony of keeping a straight face and a straight back. This moment of sorrow could have bonded her with the people around her, but as usual she pulls away and becomes even more removed from her emotions.
Hagar’s unwavering pride to show vulnerability unfortunately causes consequences. She builds a stone wall around herself keeping any pain at bay, yet she unfortunately keeps away happiness as well. Hagar realizes that feelings anything comes with good and bad so she completely cuts herself off from the outside world in order to keep all vulnerable feelings away. Hagar consequently causes herself to become stone like the stone angel, regardless of her true feelings; her mouth spews lies that are sour in order to protect the tough image she already has. Hagar has been trapped in a cycle of protection for so long, that even when her heart desires to reach out and touch someone, she somehow stops herself from showing softness.
Because of her pride, she has been unable to admit to anyone she needs assistance. In her old age she is still living at home, she refuses to admit that she is old and incapable of taking care of herself, she does not want to see vulnerable. Marvin her son, and Doris his wife, have taken care of Hagar for quite some time now but her incessant nagging and pig headed stubbornness has caused her to become a burden to them. Being unable to admit when she needs assistance causes her to lash out if anyone tries to aid her. He pride prevents her from displaying any weakness in her character and because of this she has causes emotional isolation for herself. The constant nagging and battling over needing help or not has emotionally isolated her from Marvin and Doris. She feels as if her weaknesses would giver her away, that if she were to bond and be nice to Marvin and Doris, then she would be lured into saying she was frail. Because of this fear, she shuts herself off from human contact and care, and creates her own emotional wasteland:”You’ve come for me, have you? Well, I’ll not go. Marvin didn’t tell you what he plans to do with me, I’ll bet…Once they get you in, you’re there to stay.
They don’t consult you. I won’t be lugged around like a sack of potatoes.” (221)Hagar had caused herself to become a burden on Marvin and Doris, she is unable to communicate her real fears about death to them because she does not want to appear weak. She has isolated herself from her family so much so that she is now stuck in a continuous cycle of anger towards life, causing her verbally to lash out in order to express her hidden emotions, “I didn’t mean to say that. Please, don’t tell anyone. Oh, I know you wouldn’t- why do I even ask? I’m not myself” (61). Hagar constantly blurts out things incorrectly, she feels one thing but another comes out, the constant hard edge she has put on herself has become permanent and she finds it difficult to express the simplest forms of concern or happiness. Hagar’s isolation leads her to escape from herself and begin to ponder the past.
As Hagar attempts to rectify the past within herself, she discovers much about herself in the process. Hagar Currie and Hagar Shipley become one person, she is finally able to retreat into her memories to truly discover herself. In her retreat to Shadow Point, she reconciles with her past through a series of half-sleep states. In a night of confession with Murray Lees, she releases the pain remaining from her son’s death. When Murray saves her life by notifying Marvin and Doris, she finally expresses gratitude. At the very moment she finally lets go of her anger and accepts her fate, she thanks Murray. Hagar realizes how light she feels by expressing this to Murray, “‘I didn’t mean to speak crossly. I- I’m sorry about your boy.’ Having spoken so, I feel lightened and eased” (253). Hagar is finally able to release some of the vulnerability within her, and gains the ability to express simple emotions.
Hagar intermittently shows moments of clarity in her last days, and in a brief moment of spiritual awakening with Rev. Troy, she is finally able to realize the faults in her past. This opens her mind to accepting her mistakes and trying to make amends with herself. She is finally able to admit to herself what she always wanted and needed, “Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me on was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all that I touched” (292). Her fear of vulnerability is what stopped her from expressing herself, and pride is the vehicle through while she was led into the endless spiral of fear and anger. Hagar finally realizes that she has always wanted joy, and that her pride always stopped her from being her true self, because she was too concerned with what other people thought of her.
Those who allow pride to be a hindrance in their lives, and allow it to stop them from embracing their true self, inevitably cause themselves to become apart from the world around them. This isolation allows for an initiation of self-discovery, and in turn this causes them to realize the faults in their proud and selfish actions. When pride is allowed to take over, people may use it in order maintain an expected image. People who allow their pride to create this person that they must upload, inevitably allow themselves to become isolated from others, which leads to their realization that the fake image was a negative result of pride. Similarly some people allow pride to stop them from expressing their femininity, they associate women with weakness. Their inability to be a soft and womanly person causes them to grow apart from those closest to them.
Alienation from loved ones causes them to realize that their behavior and actions were faulty, and that it was pride that caused it. Consequently, people who permit their pride to become a hindrance from showing vulnerability cause loved ones around them to become uninvolved and standoffish. The isolation as a result of this causes the individual to finally release themselves from the grip of immense pride and deliver themselves from a life of sorrow. Pride can be a wonderful experience, but if it is allowed to overrun someone’s life, it can of course, become detrimental to their lives. As everyone knows “everything in moderation”, too much of anything is bad. Hagar unfortunately takes this to the next level, when she allows her pride to take over her life and which causes her own heart to lose control over her body. Like any addict, Hagar is so set in her ways that any deviation from her course is unthinkable, finally in an awakening moment people become aware of their surroundings and finally are able to see clearly. Like a baptism, she is able to cleanse herself of the past and accept herself fully, in the last moments of her life.
Laurence, Margaret. The Stone Angel. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 1988.