Stone Angel

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Stone Angel

At one time in life, every individual is faced with the horrible fact of death. Death is a subject that everyone fears because they associate death with their end and not a new beginning. In The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence, Hagar is no different. When she faces the reality of the implications of growing old she is faced with a journey, not one of her choice but one of destiny. Through her journey Hagar goes through the five different stages leading up towards death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. The novel demonstrates each of Hagar's steps along the difficult journey of death which is frightening and intimidating but also inevitable.
When Hagar is first faced with the truth that she is getting old and not going to be around much longer, her first reaction is one of denial. Hagar cannot believe that this is happening to her. In her mind she more or less associates death as a horrible nightmare of which she will eventually wake up and everything will be a dream and life will return back to normal. Hagar's denial can be seen when she describes herself: \"Because I cannot remember doing it nor yet recall definitely not doing it...I become flustered\" (Laurence, 30). Hagar's greatest difficulty is that her memory is failing her and this infuriates her more than anything else but it also allows her to create an illusion that everything will be fine. Hagar makes herself believe that this cannot be happening:
\"Then, terribly, I perceive the tears, my own they must be although they have sprung so unbidden I feel they are like the incontinent wetness of the infirm. Trickling, they taunt down my face. I dismiss them, blaspheme against them - let them be gone. But I have spoken and they are still there\" (Laurence, 31).
Hagar rejects everything that would shatter her illusion that she has created:
\"Doris believes that age increases natural piety, like a kind of insurance policy falling due. I couldn't explain. Who would understand, even if I strained to speak? I am past ninety and this figure seems somehow arbitrary and impossible,...\" (Laurence, 38).
When Hagar finally gets through her stage of denial that she has live in she becomes angry with herself and the world around her. It frustrates Hagar that she can no longer do what she is accustomed to doing rather she often has to seek the aid of others: \"How it irks me to have to take her hand, allow her to pull my dress over my head, undo my corsets and strip them off me, and have her see my blue-veined swollen flesh...\" (Laurence, 77). Hagar gets angry also when she cannot control her emotions: \"Now I perceive, too late, how laden with self-pity my voice sounds, and how filled with reproach\" (Laurence, 37). Hagar cannot control her mind either and her illusion is slowly shattering: \"Oh, but that was not what I meant to say at all. How is it my mouth speaks by itself, the words flowing from somewhere, some half-hidden hurt?\" (Laurence, 68). Hagar is angry at her body that she can no longer do simple tasks for herself but that she is dependent on others: \"I heard the footsteps on the carpeted stair. They sound muted and velvety, as though it were a smotherer...When the intruder opens the door, I won't be able to rise from my chair...\" (Laurence, 72). Hagar feels incompetent and useless which infuriates and frustrates her at the same time.
Hagar goes through a short period of bargaining where she wonders what if. Even though Hagar attempts to bargain against the inevitable there is always a constant reminder:
\"...I'm stuck here like an overturned ladybug...I hurt all over, but the worst is that I'm helpless.
I grow enraged...Perhaps the anger gives me strength... Proud as Napoleon or Lucifer, I stand and survey the wasteland I've conquered. My bowels knot,...That's the indignity of it\" (Laurence, 191).
Since Hagar does not accept the belief in God, she bargains with destiny and places the fault on others, everybody but herself: \"That Doctor Tappen - I never thought much of him\" (Laurence, 263). She questions everybody's