“The Stone Angel” CPT
It is often said that those with the biggest egos are the ones that are easiest to bruise. Pride, being one of the seven deadly sins is the feeling of pleasure from one’s own achievement and being prideful over a quality or skill. In many stories where tragedy occurs, pride is often the downfall of many characters and causes the character’s demise. In the novel “The Stone Angel” written by Margaret Laurence, pride is a dominate theme because it causes characters to disconnect and isolate themselves from whose closest to them. Hagar Currie/Shipley’s pride is driven by fear and therefore results in her loneliness. However unlike the film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” directed by Lasse Hallstrom, pride is not an evident theme. Gilbert’s character is living in constant fear however; fear that his younger brother Arnie will harm himself and fearing that he will disappoint his family. The similarities between pride and fear is that it creates an internal struggle both characters experience; the theme of man vs. man.
Hagar Currie is born into a well off family, with her father Jason Currie and her brothers Dan and Matt. Dan and Matt take after their mother’s gracefulness and daintiness, unlike Hagar who is big boned and husky as an ox, just as her father. It is undeniable that Hagar’s pride originates from Jason. An example of this inherited trait is when Jason is scolding Hagar in the family’s store. “I wouldn’t let him see me cry. I was so enraged.” (Laurence 9). After Jason is finished with her punishment, he says “You take after me,” “You’ve got backbone, I’ll give you that.” (Laurence 10). The similarities between Jason and Hagar creates an effect that causes Jason to favour Hagar above her other siblings. While Matt is restricted to working at the store, Hagar is given the opportunity to go to school for two years. Furthermore, another example of Hagar’s pride pushing the people closest to her away is when Hagar’s first son Marvin is born. She begins to disconnect with him as a result of Jason not visiting. Hagar believes that Jason does not recognize Marvin as his grandson, and therefore does not acknowledge him as her son. When Marvin would stick close to Hagar, she grew annoyed of him and resented him. Her resentment towards her son is a coping mechanism that allows her to heal from her father’s disapproval that has hurt her pride.
However, unlike Marvin, Hagar favours John because she believed Jason would have liked the traits John had; traits that he would have wanted in Dan and Matt. Additionally, the symbolism of horses is often used throughout the novel while she is married to Brampton Shipley. The literary symbolism for horses symbolizes freedom. Soldier the horse can be used to symbolize Hagar’s freedom. When the horse dies, Hagar’s freedom also dies along him because she is now left with the mess Bram has created when he uses all their savings to buy horses. Pride lead by fear is a trait that often causes trouble because inhibits characters from their freedom by portraying a false image of one’s self to others. Pride creates an internal struggle within a character because they are often faced with the decision to feed their ego, or be susceptible to emotional pain associated with trusting others. Hagar experiences a life long battle with herself because she valued her pride above what was more important in life.
At a young age, Gilbert is forced into the role as the man of the house. Gilbert provides for his family by being employed at a grocery store that is being threatened by a new chain super market. Gilbert is also responsible for taking care of his mentally disabled brother Arnie who creates many problems for not only his family, but the entire town. Gilbert is not able to be prideful because he lives in constant fear; fear that someone will be harmed because of something he did or did not do or fear that he will disappoint his family. Gilbert often makes many sacrifices and puts others before himself. An example of this is when he notices the house structure is weakening as a result of his mother being house ridden. He takes it upon himself to create supports to fix the structure and does not flaunt his skills and achievements.
Moreover, Gilbert does not desire anything for himself. When Becky asks Gilbert what he truly desires, the first things he thinks of are factors that would benefit his family, such as a new brain for Arnie or for his mother to lose weight. However, being selfless and taking responsibly for his entire family creates internal problems for Gilbert. He is constantly expected to perform at his highest level, and when he is unable to deliver, he is judged for it more harshly. After their father’s suicide, Gilbert is forced to take on more responsibilities and is expected to perform tasks others would not be able to keep up with. The frustration that follows Gilbert as a result of him caring for Arnie builds up and accumulates within him, and results in Gilbert striking Arnie when he does not cooperate with his bath. The internal struggle that Gilbert experiences is that he is obligated to put his family that is not grateful for his efforts, ahead of his own needs and is expected to never make mistakes. Also as a result, his relationship with Becky suffers because of his unusual life circumstances. The pressure to please every member in his family, as well as keep up with the added stress of work, Bonnie’s weight, his affair with Betty and Arnie’s constant need for supervision takes a toll on Gilbert and results in struggle between pleasing others and pleasing himself.
“Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there 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 I touched.” (Laurence 292). Hagar’s pride separates her and inhibits her from forming relationship with people who care for her, such as Marvin and Doris. Her pride makes her stubborn and isolates her from a family that she worked hard to hold together. Hagar never cares for her family until the very end when the damage has been done.
Similar to the stone angel at the Currie plot. When Hagar and John visit the Currie plot, the stone angel is fallen over and vandalized. Hagar admits that she has never cared for the angel until now. “I never could bear that statue. I’d been glad enough to leave her. Now I wish I had. But at the same time it was impossible.”Similar to her family, she only realizes her family’s significances when she is close to the end of her life. Hagar’s pride holds her back from moving forward and making changes in her life. The fact alone that she often dwells on her past shows that she is still living in her past and therefore is unable to deal with the current issues going on it her life. In Gilbert’s case, all of Gilbert’s dilemmas that occur in the film originate from his lack of freedom. Gilbert is unable to make decisions freely because he always needs to consider the need and feelings of other characters. His decisions are not entirely his decision because his circumstances do not allow him to choose freely and selfishly.
Pride and fear inhibits our freedom and results in disconnected relationships and missed opportunities. It often misleads us to a life we did not plan for ourselves because we are too prideful or fearful to say otherwise. Pride that is lead by fear indicates the character’s issue with being portrayed as weak. In reality, fear is only as real as one makes it. For example, those who say that are afraid of darkness are not afraid of darkness itself, but what may be hiding in the shadows. By letting go of our pride and realizing what is more important in life, we are more likely to live the life we desire because it allows us to move forward and accept the changes we may not be ready for.