Loss of independence
Futility of Escape
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A key theme of the book Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence was the concept of a journey. The main character, Hagar undertakes several journeys throughout the book and each affects her in some way. It is through these different journeys that her individual self is shaped and each contributes to one greater journey. Yet in the end Hagar accepts each of her journeys as a necessary step in her life, and gods plan.
In the novel Hagar begins her journey in Manawaka in her father's store. There she learns about herself, and the concepts of hard work and stubbornness. Yet, her father sends her away to ladies finishing school, to learn about cooking and being a hostess. She undertakes her journey to ladies finishing school and returns full of new knowledge and abilities. Despite the fact her mind has now been broadened, her father wished her to narrow her perspectives and become a mere figure for him to parade around at parties, and to show off to neighbors. After a few months of tolerating this, Hagar marries Bram Shipley and moves into his home outside of town. Her trip from her controlling father, to her disrespected husband is an important journey for Hagar, she learns lessons about her own stubbornness, and a love of her own independence.
Yet this is not the only journey Hagar undertakes in the novel. While initially she is content to live with Bram, she soon resents his lack of refinement and respectability. Despite his differences from her father, Bram acts much the same in many ways, since he controls Hagar and wishes for her to stay home and be a housewife for him. This lack of independence does not satisfy Hagar, she soon leaves on her next journey. She travels south with her youngest son John. Hagar undertakes this long trip because she believes she can find a better life for her son John away from his father Bram. There she became the housekeeper for Mr. Oatley. For a time Hagar was content, since he afforded her all the independence she desired after her tasks had been completed. She was even allowed to travel back to Manawaka when her husband became ill. This journey south gives Hagar the independence and happiness she had searched for, but John's restlessness and anger brings her back to Manawaka, where all her journeys eventually lead. In each of her journeys, both to Bram and away from him Hagar seeks different objects and personal revelations. Yet in many ways, she learns these by the journey and not the beginning or end positions.
Yet all in all her final journeys Hagar is on a journey towards death. In fact, she remembers all the other journeys in her life as mere stepping-stones on her one final journey. In the novel, at first Hagar is living with her son Marvin and his wife Doris they both are caring for Hagar as she waits out the years until she finally dies. Hagar at first ignores this inevitability. Then when she is sent to
Silverthreads for the first time, she becomes depressed, not willing to acknowledge her own weakness until she is confronted by them. Her mental journey continues as she then undertakes a physical one as well. Despite her age and girth, Hagar runs away from Doris and Marvin's home and takes a bus to an abandoned mansion and cannery. She undertakes a long journey into her past, prompted by a strange man. This journey signifies her giving up on life, and letting herself wallow in her memories and experiences. Her life's journeys give her the knowledge from which to draw her final conclusions, and at last accept death.
The journey is a key theme in this novel. Through the book Hagar is either going somewhere, or returning from there. Be it in a mental or a physical sense. Eventually all her journey's lead to one main journey, from life to death. Yet despite the finality of her destination the way she lived her life and the lessons she learned, were all in the time during journeys, not in the rest periods in between.