The Effects of the Past on the Future

Prompt: In many works of literature, past events can affect, positively or negatively, the present activities, attitudes, or values of a character. Choose a novel or play in which a character must contend with some aspect of the past, either personal or social. Then write an essay in which you show how the characters relationship to the past contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. (2007)

Children are easily persuaded. In coordination with their innocence, children are impressionable to certain emotional responses, personality traits, and general social behaviors. In Margaret Laurence’s fictitious novel, The Stone Angel, this aspect of the human condition is portrayed through the main character of Hagar Shipley. This protagonist by convention allows the pride she obtained from her father, Jason Currie, to negatively affect her ability to build foundations towards worthwhile relationships. This behavior is displayed through her actions with characters such as: Jason Currie himself, Bram Shipley, and Marvin Shipley. This being the source of the majority of her problems. In other words, it can be said that Laurence uses the character of Hagar Shipley in the novel, The Stone Angel, to show how a child at a young age is easily, socially influenced by an adult figure. The influence can be one of pride; therefore, one may neglect care from others and as a result, fail to build meaningful relationships throughout an individuals life. 

Hagar Shipley has always been an independent and headstrong person; however, as a child, these character traits were only starting to develop. Initially, through the influence of her dominant and overpowering father, Hagar learns the importance of authoritative rule and pride in establishing a foundation to ones name. In a scene in which Hagar was scolded, she refused to cry, this lead her father to justify that “you are a true Shipley – headstrong, just like me”. However, just as Jason Currie’s sense of pride impersonated upon Hagar, this was ultimately the reason as to why she rebelled and went against her father’s wishes. Through the accumulation of her pride and individualism, along with her fathers persistent rule; this propels Hagar to finally rebel and go against his wishes by marrying Bram Shipley. Not only destroying her relationship with her father, but also displaying the human condition in which an individual becomes over stimulated with dominating character flaws, such as pride, this may become a future vice and leave a negative impact.  

Hagar’s rebellion against her father further shows the lasting impact of his legacy upon her. Further on in the novel, Hagar’s father had given her a ultimatum regarding her marriage with Bram: “marry him and you will never be seen the same in this family or abandon Bram and save your dignity and image”. Not only was Hagar deceivingly in love with Bram – a lower class, less worthy man – she was also fueled by a motivation for independence, continuously supported due to her pride. However, this act of rebellion only stimulated more pain for Hagar. She could not have thought that she had left one dominating relationship with her father, to find herself in another: her marriage with Bram. Their marriage had been unsuccessful and at times, extremely chaotic. Once again, the impact of Jason Currie’s pride upon his daughter has lead her to destroy another potentially meaningful relationship. Therefore, it can be said that a parent’s influence can be carried throughout an individual’s life, affecting relationships and one never truly understanding its impact. 

Finally, as Hagar Shipley ages, she is forced to be taken after by her son Marvin Shipley and Doris Shipley; this family dynamic only increases tension and further brings out Hagar’s pride. As a direct result of Hagar’s frail body and failing health, she is unable to care for herself. Often tripping over objects – an example being the lamp on the ground – and injuring herself, Doris becomes irritated with her lack of self awareness. Pleading Marvin to take Doris into a nursing home for elderly. This news makes Hagar extremely unhappy for having to be taken care of others hurts her pride. Furthermore, her consistent struggle fails to allow a meaningful relationship to be formed with Marvin and Doris. In the end, Hagar never questioned the affect of her father actions, constantly allowing her pride to hinder her ability to build connections throughout her life. As displayed, an individual may never forget skills and traits learnt from a young age  – allowing negative traits to define one as an individual. 

Concluding, through following the main character, Hagar, in Margaret Laurence’s coming of age novel, The Stone Angel, it is predictable that a loss of meaningful connections will be established due to a n early inheritance of negative traits, such as pride.As shown through the three characters – Hagar’s father, Bram Shipley, and Marvin Shipley – Hagar does not allow for a close connection to be developed. First through her adaption of her fathers traits, and later using it to rebel. Then, falsely believing she had independence due to marrying Bram, Hagar finds herself in the same dominating situation as she as in with her father – this shows the unreliability on ones pride. Lastly, once again, her pride dominating her relationship with Doris and Marvin Shipley, neglecting yet another possible meaningful relationship. Being incredibly unhappy with her situation and her shattered pride, Hagar doesn’t learn a lesson, and instead, pursuits her own motivations – once again, completely neglecting a need to build meaningful connections throughout life. Therefore, when a person reaches one’s elderly years, it is possible they never realize the lasting impact an adult figure has upon them; thus, never able to correct one’s negative behaviors.

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4 thoughts on “The Effects of the Past on the Future

  1. Dearest Judy,

    You may be one of the quieter students in class; however, your profound understanding and ideas, as presented in this essay, is not to be silenced my friend!! Your essay was perfect, especially because you brought great importance and value to details which I had not focused on. In the back of my mind, I was always conscious of the influence of Hagar’s upbringing; however, I was so focused on tracing her obvious detrimental factor that I had, for the most part, ignored the origination of said factor. So thank you for writing this essay, it gave great insight and importance to crucial parts of the novel!

    Personally I love how you presented pride as a lasting legacy gifted by her father (I was never smart enough to name it that :). In the novel we see how Hagar despised her father, yet, as the story unravels, it is revealed that Hagar’s characteristics and values end up being much like her father’s. Hagar taking on the attitudes of someone she dislikes is none other than the effect/influence of being brought up in those ideals. Furthermore I loved the cohesiveness of you essay as it flowed beautifully from the intro paragraph all the way to the conclusion. Your chosen evidences were very effective and wonderfully connected back to the theme statement. Good job Judy!!!!! You are truly amazing and admirable!!

    As for improvement, I really don’t have much to say, IT WAS VERY WELL WRITTEN :). Other than the very minor oppies in the conclusion (in the second line there is a space between an and there isn’t a space As – beginning of the second sentence) there were no noticeable GUMPS. The only other thing I can suggest for improvement is add more to the mean part of the essay. This is just for the sake of clarity and better understanding for the reader.

    Once again, you have opened my eyes and provided insightful details, amazing job Judy!!! You are a brilliant writer and please please share more of these brilliant ideas in class!! Wink, wink, nudge, nudge 🙂

    Lots of love,

    1. Dearest Hefseeba,

      Wow, thank you sooo much for your amazing feeback. Even though you’ve just joined this year, I’m truly inspired by you, your brilliance is through the roof – hehe. Also, I agree, I definitely could have added more ”juice” and I will go back and fix my GUMPS!

      Once again, thank you.


  2. Dearest Judy,
    Great work! This is such a great essay and I really enjoyed reading it; your writing style is concise and well-articulated. I loved how you connected your essay was. There was a clear transition of her pride through all of her relationships and your initially, then, finally worked brilliantly together. There is certainly a thing or two I could pick up from you regarding connections. I loved the in your “then” when you wrote, ” fueled by a motivation for independence, continuously supported due to her pride” as the word choice of “supported” showed just how much of a crutch Hagar’s pride had become. Wow! Also, the way you concluded by stating we may not realize the impact adults had on us in our childhood and how that impacts us in our adult/elderhood was really profound. Great work, Judy.

    As for as improvements, I would suggest a read through for GUMPS and would like to see direct quotes in your say or longer/ more thorough descriptions for more emphasis.

    All-in-all, a pretty great essay.


    1. Dearest Ibukun,

      I love you so much. I am extremely greatful for your support and helpful feedback – THANK YOU SIS!! As I’ve said above, I’ll definitely go back and fix my little GUMPS as well as my quotation errors.


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