Love is not something that we give or get; love is something that we nurture and grow. It is a connection that can only exist between two people when it initially exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves. In Kari Skogland’s film adaption of Margaret Laurence’s novel The Stone Angel, the protagonist and main character, Hagar Shipley, is the daughter of a wealthy shop owner named Jason Currie. Hagar possesses remarkable depth in character, and her emotions have a wide range. While going back and forth between Hagar’s flashbacks and present time, the viewer observes the very qualities that sustained her and deprived her of love. It is not until Hagar learns and accepts the reality that she will have to swallow her pride that she learns how to outwardly express the little amount of love that she always had within her to give. Through acceptance and strength, Hagar is able to find the true picture that she has always wanted.
Hagar can only love her sons and husband as much as she loves herself. Jason Currie is just as stubborn as Hagar, and is a prosperous and wealthy man. As a result of his success, he carries high expectations for his children. Hagar’s constant demand on marrying Brampton Shipley is what leads to the fallout of Hagar and Jason’s relationship. As a child, Hagar had the utmost amount of respect for her father and admires his ability to make himself successful as a storeowner. In addition, it is necessary to her respect that her father achieves standing in life by being headstrong and resolute. Jason was a successful man because he was forceful and powerful rather than sensitive and vulnerable to putting his emotions onto the spotlight. The reason why Hagar admires these qualities is because it shows a sense of perseverance and determination that she herself values and holds. When Hagar informs her father of the wedding, he replies with “He’s as common as dirt. No decent girl in this town marries without her family’s consent. It’s not done.” Ultimately, Jason views Bram as an unsuitable husband and will never approve because he is not wealthy and good enough for his daughter. Hagar releases the ‘stone’ within her and confidently says “Well, it’ll be done by me. I’m getting married and that’s it.” This act of revolt shows her need to prove her sovereignty to her father and motivates her even more to strengthen her belief that she will marry Bram. Following the marriage, Jason disowns his daughter and the relationship between him and Hagar effectively ends, as neither of them contact each other again. Though Hagar inherits the controlling attitude and stubbornness from her father, she is able to focus on the fact that it does not matter if Bram makes her father happy, but that he makes her happy. Hagar is initially attracted to Bram’s lack of expression of real emotion, but she is also attracted to his physical appearance and personality which greatly contrasts her own. In spite of the fact that their opposing personalities attract them to one another, this is also what causes them to drive apart. Ultimately, Bram and Hagar did love each other at one point, and because Bram did make her happy, this created a newfound self-love in Hagar, which helped her reciprocate the love that he gave to her.
Furthermore, Hagar can only tend and take care of her sons if she knows how to take care of herself first. The key relationships in her life are with men, and the most important one is the relationship she shares with her sons, Marvin and John. Hagar has a one-sided relationship with John, and a detached, but ultimately redeemed relationship with Marvin. While her sons grew up, it became noticeable to Hagar that John inherited the Currie genes while Marvin mirrored his father’s sweet and gentle traits. Hagar’s relationship with John is arguably the only relationship in which she exhibits love; she undeniably expels her love toward John, leaving little love for anyone else. For example, when Hagar was passed down the Currie pin from her father, she believes that John deserves it as he is the Currie. She talks to John alone and says “I’ve got something for you, John. Gainsy who dare – Scottish by birth, British by law, and a Highlander by the grace of God. It was my father’s and his before that and it’s now yours. You’re the Currie.” John does not appreciate the love that he receives from his mother as much as he perhaps should because it is rare for Hagar to display love, and he is more frustrated by her nagging and complaining than he is grateful for her love. Despite John’s lack of appreciation, Hagar continues to persistently put in all of her energy into raising John. She is a controlling mother who wants to dictate John’s life, which might be a remnant of her own relationship with her father while growing up. After a tragic and unexpected train accident, John passes away with Hagar by his side at the hospital. John’s rejection of his mother’s love changes Hagar more than he will ever know as she put in endless amounts of energy into loving and supporting him. Hagar truly becomes the stone angel at this point because she is numb and unwilling to allow herself to feel the pain that loving someone can bring. Just as Jason did not allow himself to show emotion, Hagar will not allow herself to show emotion either. The fallout of Hagar and John’s relationship does not necessarily empower Hagar, but their relationship certainly brought her happiness and perhaps for the first time in her life, she loved someone with all of her heart and showed it, which does empower her.
Hagar’s relationship with her firstborn, Marvin, is much more different than her relationship with John. While John demonstrated the Currie traits and was intimate, Hagar’s relationship with John was more distant. Moreover, while Hagar was more nurturing and loving toward John, she is utterly closed off and accusatory of Marvin. Just like Hagar and John’s relationship was one-sided, her relationship with Marvin is also one-sided, however, Marvin is the one in this case to be expressing love. This differing treatment of Marvin can be partially contributed to the situation surrounding Hagar’s relationship with John. Hagar has invariably favoured John over Marvin because he reminds her plenty of her father- a man she pays high respect toward. While Marvin prepares to leave to war, Hagar misses a momentous moment to connect with him by blocking out her emotions while saying goodbye. By the same token, Hagar still worries for her son and hugs him, which empowers her because actions speak louder than words. The reason why their relationship has always been steady may not have much to do with circumstances and their situation, but instead personality wise because while Hagar is stubborn, Marvin is easygoing and does not give up on his mother. Despite their relationship being a slight failure early on, Hagar’s insight before passing away changes entirely. Upon realizing that she has never accepted the love that she has been surrounded with by Marvin, she is able to give Marvin the acceptance that he has always needed by telling him that “You’ve been a good son, Marvin, always.”, and “It’s not much of a pin. I don’t know if it means anything to you now, but I want you to have it. I should have given it to you in the first place.” Hagar’s choice to make their last moments together special rather than an empty opportunity makes her beyond empowered. As she is dying, she notices that Marvin looks cold and gets up to place a blanket onto him. This emotional and beautiful gesture shows the love that a mother has for her son and the ‘angel’ within Hagar. Lastly and most importantly, Hagar comes to terms with herself as she lies on her deathbed. Marvin enters her room and asks “Do you need anything?” to which she replies with “Not a thing in the world.” This moment is arguably the most significant of the film because Hagar grew up always needing something; whether it was for Marvin to clean the house or telling Bram what to do, she fought to have her true picture that she has always wanted. When Hagar tells Marvin that she does not need anything, this is the moment when Hagar swallows her pride and unquestionably comes to terms with herself. At this point, Hagar meets the reality that she has always had her true picture, but she was always blind to it.
In the final analysis, Hagar’s key relationships are different in their own ways, but also special and unique. Some of her relationships are defined by respect while others are defined by a lack of emotion. Although most of her relationships were failures, this does not mean that it disempowered her or made her any less of a person. After observing her character, it is concluded that Hagar is tough, stubborn, and controlling, but her sweet, emotional, and sensitive side must not be overlooked. She loved and was loved, but expressed her emotions in different ways. Ultimately, Hagar’s pride is the one thing to blame for the fallout of her relationships and marriage, but above all, Hagar’s success of self-love and realization before her death leads her to redeem the most important relationship in her life – which is saving herself.