Loss of Independence
Stone Angel Theme: Loss of Independence
The theme, loss of independence plays a large role in Margaret Laurences' Stone Angel. Hagar Shipley, the main character in the novel, struggles with her loss of independence throughout the book. In the novel Hagar tells the reader of her life; from past to present. Her story flips back and forth between the past and the present and she relates her present state to her past. Her story is fraught with the theme of loss of independence.
At every stage of her life, Hagar has some situation going on where her independence is lost to someone. She tells of the times while she was growing up, when she felt the controlling hand of her father in everything she did.
"We sat around the dining-room table every evening, Dan and Matt and I, doing our homework. An hour was required, and if we had no more schoolwork to do, Father would set us sums and dispense advice." (13)
After she returned from college, instead of letting her go off to teach in another town he attempts to control her future. (43) "Anyway, no daughter of mine is going out there alone. You'll not teach, miss." (44) He had her be his host at parties and he would have young men over who he wanted her to choose from for marriage. (45) He did not want her to marry the man of her choice and he always wanted her to be dependent on him and his choices rather than her own. Hagar's independence is also lost when she marries because she must depend on her husband, Bram to provide for her and the children. (84) He provides for the family and she has no way of making her own income apart from selling the eggs from his hens. (131) After Hagar leaves Bram she goes to work for an old man named Mr. Oatley who she and one of her sons lives with. (155) So, Hagar is again dependent on someone else. Although she is taking care of the man, he is paying her to do so, as well as providing her with a place to stay. Hagar depends on Mr. Oatley because without him she would be living on the streets or living back with Bram.
At the present time Hagar is ninety and yet she still is forced to give up her independence which she can never quite grasp. She has to live with her son, Marvin and daughter in-law, Doris. (6) They live in her house, which is technically not hers anymore because Marvin now controls all of the finances. Hagar depends on them to provide her with food, clothing, and almost every other aspect of her life. Her physical condition is of very low quality because of her age and she must depend on them for everything. (57) "Now, Mother, don't go and get yourself all upset. How could you manage here alone?" (57) Hagar even attempts to escape her dependence to them by running away, (145) but even then she is still not granted independence because she ends up finding a man in the abandoned town she is hiding in who then provides her with a drink and company. (223) She depends on him for help until she is found again. (247) Hagar jumps from one person to another always depending on someone. After her escape she then ends up in a hospital where she depends on nurses and a doctor to provide her with food, medicine, and the various other provisions she needs. (255) Hagar is stuck, she always complains about how she is forced to depend on other people, but she can never get away.
Hagar can not escape dependence upon other people; as a child she depends on her father, as a young woman she must also depend on her father. As a married woman Hagar depends on her husband. When she and Bram separate, she depends on Mr. Oatley, and when she is old she depends on her son and daughter in-law. When she becomes to sick for Doris and Marvin to take care of her, she then ends up in a hospital. She is then dependent on doctors and nurses. Hagar is always forced to loose her independence, she tries as hard as she possibly can to obtain independence and keep it but she never can.