Stone Angel Pride Essay

The Stone Angel - Theme of Pride

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The Stone Angle - Theme of Pride

Short Summation of Pride-Related Occurrences: The first reference to pride is in the second sentence of the novel: Hagar describes the Stone Angel as "my mother's angel that my father bought in pride to mark her bones and proclaim his dynasty…" (3). Hagar's father was a very proud man, a trait that was passed on to his daughter, and he takes great pride in this "terribly expensive" statue, which "had been brought from Italy" … "and was pure white marble" (3). Hagar recollects exhibiting her pride as early as age 6 when she says "There was I, strutting the board sidewalk like a pint-sized peacock, resplendent, haughty, hoity-toity, JasonCurrie's black-haired daughter" (6). Jason Currie was a "self-made man" who "had pulled himself up by his bootstraps" (7). Hagar was very proud of her father's success, seeing as how "he had begun without money" (14).

  Hagar's father, because he worked so hard, took great pleasure in his store. She says, "Father took such pride in the store - you'd have thought it was the only one on earth. It was the first in Manawaka, so I guess he had due cause. He would lean across the counter, spreading his hands, and smile so wonderfully you'd feel he welcomed the world" (9). Mr. Currie had excessive self-esteem, as seen when the Reverend Dougall MacCulloch was calling out the names of the people who had contributed to help build the new church. Jason Curried leaned over and arrogantly said to his daughter "I and Luke McVitie must've given the most, as he called our names the first" (16).

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The Currie's held very high opinions of themselves; this is shown when Hagar refers to her father, saying, "Matt and Dan and I always knew he could never have brought himself to marry his housekeeper" (17). The pride she felt in her youth is present also when Hagar is grown up. She is frustrated at both her lack of coordination and her arthritis, which causes her to fall (31). Her reaction is as follows: "I perceive the tears, my own they must be although they have sprung so unbidden I feel they are like the incontinent wetness of the infirm. Trickling, they taunt down my face. They are no tears of mine, in front of her. I dismiss them, blaspheme against them - let them be gone. But I have not spoken and they are still there" (31). Later, Hagar descends the stairs - on her own - and smugly thinks "I hold the banister tightly, and of course I'm all right, perfectly all right, as I always am when I haven't got an audience" (33). When the minister from Doris' parish visits Hagar, her personal dignity is definitely at risk. In her thoughts, she describes the incident. "I sit uncomfortably. I am bloated, full, weighted down, and I fear I may pass wind. Nevertheless, for the minister's call I have at least put on my gray flowered dress…and the flowers, sprinkled liberally, almost overcome the gray" (40) Early in the second chapter, there are several instances in which Hagar' pride prevents her from responding to her inclinations. The first occurs just before Hagar leaves for college: she wanted to tell her brother Matt that "he should have been the one to go" to college, but she is unable to do so and "Later, in the train," she cried (42). Further on, she is unable to attempt to reconcile after a dispute with her father concerning whether or not she would pursue a career as a teacher. This is how she remembers the incident: "I jerked my hand away as though I had accidentally set it on a hot stove. He didn't say a word. He turned and went outside… I felt I must pursue him, say it was a passing thing and not meant. But I didn't" (44, 45).

 



The Stone Angel examines the patterns that damage successive generations. Hagar’s hatred of emotionality, instilled by her father, blunts her enjoyment of life and ensures her harsh and overly critical attitude toward other people. Hagar comments on the stone angel’s blindness, but she does not see that she herself also unseeingly tries to force people into her own model of proper behavior. Later the angel is desecrated: After Hagar has married and left Bram, she briefly returns to Manawaka to find that, to her horror, the angel has toppled. When John grudgingly raises her, Hagar sees that the angel’s mouth has been garishly lipsticked. She tries to scrub away the red, but a stain remains. After that day, the angel crookedly marks the Currie-Shipley resting place. Hagar’s experiences have similarly knocked her from her pedestal, and she is also “crooked” in the way in which she sees the world. Only at the age of ninety does she realize that she wanted to speak her heart’s truth, unrestrained by pride and propriety. Like her father, she was shackled by a pride born of fear.

Laurence juxtaposes Hagar’s parallel stories. Hagar’s present, as an unwillingly frail and often tyrannical old woman, is carried throughout, but Hagar’s memories and explanations of the past are equally important. There are nineteen major changes between past and present time, often triggered by Hagar’s present sensations: For example, a painting, children playing on the beach, or a flowered dress can spark her painful and often comic memories. The first four chapters detail Hagar’s thoughts before she runs away from Marvin; the next four focus on her actions and thoughts while at Shadow Point; and the last two center on the hospital and her last days before death. In the last chapters, past and present become blurred: Hagar’s remembering becomes so intense that she essentially relives the pain and happiness that she experienced. Toward the end of the novel, Hagar begins to think about events from others’ points of view—insights that have been all too rare.

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