In the novel The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence uses the symbol of possessions to illustrate that when a person hides themselves emotionally from the world, their relationships are consequently shallow and unfulfilling, until discovering that sharing bonds with people is an essential and inherent part of life. Using the plaid pin it is shown that eventually Hagar learns from her mistakes and sees that it is a necessary part of life to have and maintain bonds with people. Hagar has always acted so distantly to both of her sons, lacking a real mothering instinct, never showing them tenderness.
This is the same way she acts with most people, like her husband who she, in twenty-four years of marriage shows two acts of kindness. She cannot realize that the pin only symbolizes her heritage, and that just because he lost the pin does not make her heritage any less real. Putting up a barrier such as this pin between herself and her son makes it so that they are unable to share a real, normal mother-son relationship. Eventually she resigns herself to the fact that it is gone, and that nothing is going to bring it back.
Instead, she regrets all of the things she never said to John, and all the things she did, her harsh manner and rudeness towards him: “No, that’s nonsense. I need no one but you. I’m glad you weren’t quite so late tonight. You needn’t have come back here on my account. But I’m glad you did…. I didn’t really mean it, about not bringing her here. A person speaks in haste. I’ve always had a temper. I wouldn’t want you to feel you always had to be going out somewhere. You could come here in the evenings. I wouldn’t’ say a word. I could go into the front room, or upstairs if you liked. I’d not get in your way.
Wouldn’t that be a good idea? ‘… I grow anxious and think he may still be angry” (245) Shortly after she wakes up in the middle of the night, being sick and after drinking, Murray Lees talks to her, and in her weakened state she mistakes him for John. She wants so badly for him to be John, so she can finally right the wrongs that she feels burning within her. She has carried these regrets for so long, and it is now overwhelming her. She could possibly even know, very deep down in her heart, that this is not John, but she needs to be redeemed, needs to know that she was not a horrible person all her life.
She is going delusional in all of her worry and concern for what she has done to him. The change in herself is quite clear, in her most primal state, she is acknowledging the fact that she can no longer put so much faith in the possessions she owns. She is admitting that she needs people, that she wants to love John, and wants his love in return. This is a very important step for her eventual redemption, and the first of many to fully realizing that she wants and needs love and companionship just as much as any other person.
Beyond this, it is also interesting to consider the fact that she had spent the entire night opening up her entire life to a complete stranger. This proves again that she is human and has a need to talk to people, to be understood and heard. Using the plaid pin as an example of a possession, it is shown that when somebody conceals their emotions from everyone else, their interactions with people are superficial, until they learn that it is an unavoidable part of life to share bonds with people. As the Stone Angel cannot talk to the rest of the world or form relationships with people, as is Hagar.
She relates strongly to this monument. Her relationships with the people in Manawaka, in particular, were so unbelievably shallow. Possessions played such a key factor, like a Stone Angel. With this, she is denying and denouncing the relationships with the people that surround her, making them mean so much less. Due to this the depth of these relationships consequently suffer. As shown with the stone angel in this novel, Hagar eventually realized that it was instinctive and normal for people to share connections.
She slowly started to let go of the idea that the Stone Angel was important, as she realized that it really should not matter to her: “The angel was still standing there, but winters or lack of care had altered her… someday she’ll topple entirely, and no one will bother to set her upright again… ‘Take this one-bet you never seen a stone before with two family names, eh? Unusual. This here’s the Currie-Shipley stone’… The both of them. Both the same. Nothing to pick and choose between them now. That was as it should be. But all the same, I didn’t want to stay any longer. (304)
Hagar learns that it is okay for the two families to be joined, that she is proud to be both a Currie and a Shipley. She has forgiven her father and Bram by this point for any transgressions they may have made against her, and herself towards them. At this point it is important to note that she no longer cares what happens to the angel, and the ease with which she walks away from it. She has reached some kind of revelation, some plethora of knowledge that must be quite overwhelming. The knowledge comes from so many angles all at once.
Her feelings about religion and God must be changing, since it was a religious man that originally started this chain reaction, bringing her more happiness. Her feelings towards the people around her have changed, as she vows to make an effort to reconcile with all whom she has stranded. Everything she thought she knew is changing. This means that the relationships she has with people are gaining meaning. In turn, this shows that when a person chooses to hide from the world, their relationships are thereby deemed shallower until the point when they learn that it’s unavoidable to tie to other people.
Hagar always feels she needs to look her best, always has to wear the most presentable clothing, no matter what the situation is. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it does contribute to the likelihood of your relationships being shallow if you yourself are: “‘You might ask Doris to bring my two satin nightgowns-the pale pink one, that is, and the blue. I can’t abide these gowns. Like sackcloth, they are, so heavy, and they itch. Oh-and the bun for my hair. I’ve lost the one I had.
And tell her to be sure to bring the hairnets, not the heavy night ones, the others. She’ll know. And some hairpins. She might just bring that bottle of Lily of the Valley that Tina gave me, too. ‘” (261) She is in a hospital, on what will most likely be her deathbed, and yet she is still thinking about what she should be wearing, and how to make herself most presentable. Instead of trying to make up to everyone around her, working on redemption and salvation, she is concerning herself with what she is wearing, and how she looks.
It seems more than a little ridiculous. Nearing the end of her life, Hagar finally reaches some revelations and learns that she does need people in her life, for better or for worse. At this point Tina has decided to get married. Hagar has always been fond of Tina, but as with everyone else in her life, she has never been able to express this. As a gesture, she decides to send Tina a wedding present: “What could I possibly tell her, I wonder, that could do her any good? She knows a lot more than I did when I married.
Or maybe she doesn’t, really, but who’s to tell her? I haven’t a word to send her, my granddaughter. Instead, I tug at my right hand, pull and shake, and finally wrench off the ring… ‘I could never bear to part with it. Stupid. ‘” (277) As Hagar’s life is slowly ending, she is at the same time, slowly realizing how little material things mean in the big picture; gaining clarity. All of the time she has spent trying to hold onto all of her possessions, really would have been better spent trying to forge special bonds with the people around her.
Finally, just before it is too late, she learns how much she really cares about all of these people, and what is really important to her. In this way, she finally sees how natural it is to care about the people around you. She sees how easy it is to love the people who love you, and to actually want to take care of them, and prevent them from ever getting hurt, even as she herself has hurt them. She finally learns that when she was hiding her emotions from the world, she was really only hurting herself and others, and causing their relationships to be all but meaningless.
All in all, in the novel The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence uses the symbol of possessions to illustrate that when a person hides themselves emotionally from the world, their relationships are consequently shallow and unfulfilling, until discovering that sharing bonds with people is an instinctive and unavoidable part of life. All of the little things, the material goods that have kept Hagar from the people she should rightfully be close to have destroyed her life. These possessions have made her life empty and unfulfilled, preventing her from having what she truly would have wished.
Materialism is something that has invaded society. It steals one’s life from you, taking one’s dreams, hopes, and wishes. It can totally engulf a person, making him or her extremely jealous; consumed by greed. Materialism and possessions prevent people from being as close to each other. It prevents religion from having the effect it used to, and makes humanity on the whole deconstructive. As this continues from generation to generation, the good of mankind is deteriorating. The will for the common good is disappearing, and more and more people get lost in all those little tiny things.