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Futility of Escape
Futility of Escape


One of the prevalent themes in Margaret Laurence's Stone Angel is the theme of futility of escape. The main character Hagar recounts how she spends most of her life trying to flee from the situation she becomes wrapped in, only to enter another situation she wants to get away from. Since this theme occurs throughout the entire novel, it becomes the main theme behind the story. Her escaping starts from a young age and continues all the way until her final escape, death.

Hagar began this pattern of escape when she returned home from ladies finishing school and wanted to teach. Her father would not let her and she became basically confined to her home because she wanted to reimburse her father for her schooling. Her father's controlling nature and lack of approval was the creation for her need to flee. She finally found an escape by marrying a man older than her, Bram Shipley. Bram was her escape from her father's approval, doing this meant she could do what she wanted without her father's opinion because she had alienated her father. Bram becomes a replacement for her father by providing for her, yet he is nothing like her father. Bram developed into more than an escape from her father and a person who Hagar wanted to change; he also became the father of her children.

Similarly to the situation that had ensued with her father, Hagar eventually also escapes from life with Bram. Hagar had thought she could change Bram's actions and through her treatment of him she in fact made his actions worse. Hagar left Bram because he sold lemon extracts and was begging. John, her son was teased about his father and heard of Bram being teased.  She moved in with a man named Mr. Oatley who she gets paid to take care of.  She still thought and worried about Bram, so she doesn't really escape as she thought she would be by leaving, she escaped physically but not mentally.  John moved back in with Bram and Hagar received a letter from John that stated that Bram was sick so she went back to see him. This time she does not escape him, but rather she loses him, because he dies.

When Hagar realizes that her son Marvin and his wife Doris are really serious about her moving into a nursing home, Silverthreads. She cashes her pension check and goes to Shadow Point, a town where Marvin once worked but is now abandoned, to escape them and to escape Silverthreads. She manages to get away and hide but is eventually found by Marvin and was taken to Silverthreads.  While in Silverthreads Hagar tries to recall being "truly free", but cannot remember many times in which she has achieved it.

Therefore Hagar is the prime example for futility of escape in Stone Angel. Yet, there are other examples of futility, including Marvin, John, and Bram. Marvin tries to escape Hagar near the end of the novel, because along with his wife Doris, he no longer wanted to have the burden of taking care of Hagar when she could be better dealt with in a nursing home. Thus Marvin was trying to escape from his guilt regarding Hagar, as well as from Hagar herself. John escaped Hagar when he moved back to live with Bram, but he eventually makes his own escape futile because he wrote her occasional letters and sends her a letter about his father Bram dying which causes Hagar to return and once again become part of John's life. Bram was a prisoner of his life, he had a bad reputation and remained worthless, he never reached his true potential, but instead remained true to his reputation.


Thus, Stone Angel is a story based around the futility of escape; because none of the characters ever manage to escape from whatever debacle they are placed in. Hagar remains unable to be free, until her death. John and Marvin are unable to escape Hagar, which ruins most of their lives. Bram is unable to reach his full potential and thus cannot escape his reputation.