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 takes off her unrealistic lenses and accepts the reality that she will never receive her father’s love, she learns how to outwardly express the little amount of love she 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 wealthy, self-made 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 through his strong-will. He made it far in life because he was forceful and powerful rather by putting the spotlight onto his emotions. The reason why Hagar admires these qualities is because it shows a sense of perseverance and determination that she herself values. 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 Brampton as an unsuitable husband and will never approve because he is not wealthy. 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 rebellion shows her need to prove her independence to her father and motivates her even more to strengthen her belief that she must marry Bram. Following the marriage, Jason disowns his daughter and the relationship between him and Hagar effectively ends, as neither of them contacts 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 attracted to Brampton’s physical appearance and personality which greatly contrasts her own. She is also initially attracted to his lack of expression of real emotion. Although their opposing personalities attract them to one another, this is also what causes them to drive apart. Ultimately, Brampton and Hagar did love each other at one point and because he made her happy, this created a newfound self-love in Hagar, which helped her reciprocate the love 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, the most important ones being the relationship she shares with each of her sons, Marvin and John. Hagar has a one-sided relationship with John and a distant, but ultimately redeemed relationship with Marvin. While her sons grew up, it became noticeable to Hagar that John inherited all of 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 displays love; she unquestionably 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 believed that John deserved it as he was 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 gets from his mother as much as he perhaps should, and is more frustrated by her nagging and complaining than he is grateful for her express of love. Despite John’s lack of appreciation, Hagar continues to put in all of her energy into raising John. She is a controlling mother, which may be a remnant of her own relationship with her father growing up. After a tragic and unexpected train accident, John passes away with Hagar by his side on his death bed. John’s rejection of his mother’s love changes Hagar more than he will ever know since 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. Again, she will not allow herself to show emotion just as her father did. The fallout of Hagar and John’s relationship does not necessarily empower Hagar, but it certainly made her happy and perhaps for the first time in her life, she loved someone with all of her heart which did empower her.
Hagar’s relationship with her firstborn, Marvin, is much more different than her relationship with John was. While John demonstrated the Currie traits and was intimate, her relationship with John was more distant. Also, while Hagar was more nurturing and loving to John, she is simply closed off and critical 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 different treatment of Marvin can be partially contributed to the situation surrounding Hagar’s relationship with John. Hagar has always favoured John more because he reminded her plenty of her father, a man she pays high respect toward, than Marvin did. While Marvin prepares to leave to war, Hagar misses a special moment to connect with him by hiding her emotions when saying goodbye. Though she completely blocks out any kind of emotion to be physically shown, she is still worried 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, but instead personality wise because while Hagar is stubborn, Marvin is easygoing and does not give up on his mother. Although their relationship was a slight failure early on, Hagar’s insight before passing away changes entirely. Upon realizing that she has never accepted the love 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 in Hagar.
At the end of the film, Hagar’s key relationships are different in their own ways, but also special. Some of her relationships are defined by respect, and others are defined by a lack of emotion. Although most of her relationships were failures, that does not mean it disempowered her or made her any less of a person. After observing her character, it is fair to say that she is tough, stubborn, and controlling, but her sweet, emotional, and sensitive side must not be overlooked. She loved and was loved, but was shown it in different ways and expressed it in different ways. Overall, Hagar’s success of self-love and realization before her death leads her to extricate the most important relationship in her life – which is saving herself.