“And here I am, the same Hagar, in a different establishment once more, and waiting again. I try, a little, to pray, as one’s meant to do at evening, thinking perhaps the knack of it will come to me here. But it works no better than it ever did. I can’t change what’s happened to me in my life, or make what’s not occurred take place. But I can’t say I like it, or accept it, or believe it’s for the best. I don’t and never shall, not even if I’m damned for it. So I merely sit on the bed and look out the window until the dark comes and the trees have gone and the sea itself has been swallowed by the night.” (The Stone Angel- Margaret Laurence, pg. 160)
As the last passage of chapter five in The Stone Angel, Hagar is reflecting on her memories of the past. After a flashback of her life as Mr. Oatley’s maid, she recalls his kindness towards her, John’s teenage behaviour, and even the bitter emptiness she felt when she found herself waking up alone, without the presence of Bram. It was a moment of uncertainty of her coming future- hoping, and praying for happiness to come. She then proceeds to break the fourth wall before stating the quotation, saying the future was not to be expected, foreshadowing the later events of the novel. The quotation illustrates present Hagar finding herself in a similar position, trying to pray for a brighter future. A future that does not include being admitted into a senior’s home.
Hagar’s character remains unchanging throughout the course of the novel, carrying pride and negativity through her youth, adulthood, and old age. She is in a similar situation of discontent at different points in her life. Hagar finds it obligatory to pray for an improvement to take place for her future, without the belief or faith that they will be answered. This feeling of obligation stems from the religious influences in her life. Religion is a recurring motif throughout the story, including: her father never missing a Sunday service, Bram’s indecency in the church, Doris inviting her religious friend to their home to influence Hagar’s spirituality, and Murray Lee’s loss in faith. Hagar contradicts most of these instances by having a very weak connection to God. When her prayers remain unanswered, Hagar automatically chooses to be pessimistic when in prayer, one is supposed to feel patient. Her loss of faith is derived from her loss of control, good fortune, and happiness in her life. By replacing faith with pride, Hagar is accepting condemnation. Without allowing herself to accept her past, she is unable to move on and experience happiness. By bowing down to even the divinity of God, Hagar feels a sense of weakness, as if being in need or requesting relief of her problems is a sign of inadequacy. Hagar’s character is presented as headstrong and completely independent. Though she remained unwavering of her values, Hagar’s aging has caused her to regress back to a childlike stubbornness. With such a potent personality, Hagar has a weak sense of self, she does not know herself well. She disallows herself to feel any negative emotions, especially represented through John’s death when she refused to grieve or cry in front of anyone. Avoiding negative emotions causes an individual to harbor more resentment and hate towards all aspects of life. Hagar cannot feel happiness without acceptance.
Unfortunately, Hagar has lived a full life of pure sadness and bitterness. It is as if she has lost hope while waiting for a moment of happiness in her life. What is she waiting for? Perhaps her own death as she constantly deems herself old and useless. This immensely strong sense of pride Hagar carries results from the reinforcement of the importance of reputation and social status her father instilled within her from a young age. Unfortunately, this mentality has caused her to make decisions at the cost of her own success or fulfillment. When an individual continuously sacrifices their happiness for the sake of others, resentment develops because they have not felt any self satisfaction. I have recently learned that not allowing myself to accept elements in my life that cannot change is denial and avoidance of my problems. Maybe my life is not filled with all the tribulations I’m destined to face yet, but I still experience hardship. I took this quotation on the more religious level. Similarly to Hagar, I have felt a slight disconnect with my faith at my own fault. Although this might not seem like the be-all end-all of my life, but it was an experience that I didn’t even realize was happening to me. I’ve noticed that the loss of faith is not abrupt. It is a slow strenuous process or lethargy and avoidance. The fact that I had stopped praying almost cut me off. Yes, I attended service twice a week as I was supposed to, yet I always felt guilty to even be in the presence of God. I feel undeserving. With all that said, I’ve been putting more effort in reaching my full potential of faithfulness.
Dear Father in Heaven,
I’m waiting again. It’s 10 o’clock at night and I try, a little, to pray, as one’s meant to do every evening. I know that for so many nights, I’ve put myself above Your Name, I’ve avoided Your sight for days, although I know I cannot hide from You. I sit in guilt because I know that I am not worthy of Your unyielding goodness that reigns on me, but I seem to be holding an umbrella above my own head, hiding.
Yes, I haven’t been doing well. I’m sorry that You experience disappointment everyday because of me, I’ve doubted You heavily. For a fraction of a second, I thought You could not give me happiness and I know that was wrong and it pains me to think that I could have denied Your love for even a moment and I’m so embarrassed to ask for forgiveness when I’m undeserving and I will never do it again and please don’t hurt me as much as I’ve hurt you and I’m sorry.
I promise I am good.
I promise I didn’t mean it.
Please be merciful. I ask that You, please, see my heart. You know that I can’t lie to You. Because I always seem to be making promises that I can’t keep. In service, a promise always comes up in prayer, but I can’t stop answering just because I’m too weak to be perfect. And here I am, the same person You’ve always known, on my knees, making a solemn oath. I will put my complete trust onto You.
You are my refuge.
In the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
I wrote this prayer in hopes of getting my emotions onto paper to visualize. Physically writing allows me to have a certain cathartic experience thinking or talking does not provide. I felt so much guilt and it only brought me farther and farther away from God. And I know, I am not the best writer or presenter, I’m still trying to authenticate my voice and style. I will be better.
fun gif used: