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Monday, October 22, 2012

comparsion between Stone Angel and A Jest of God

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In the two books Stone Angel and A Jest of God written by Margaret Laurence, both of the main characters strive for freedom and independence. Rachel Cameron, from A Jest of God is a thirty-four year old, paranoid and pessimistic teacher who always undervalues herself. While Hagar Shipley, is an elderly woman who is so full of pride that is clouds her judgment and has made her spend most of her life fighting for independence. Both characters illustrate the importance of being true to one’s self, the importance of self-realization and the obstacles and sacrifices that come with gaining independence. Once becoming true to one’s self by self-realization, reaching freedom and independence requires one to break away or overcome family members and their wishes.


The main characters in the two novels illustrate the importance of being true to one’s self in gaining independence by showing how slowly and difficult it is to solve conflicts without being true to one’s self. Both Hagar and Rachel were not true to themselves for most of their lives, slowing down their process of gaining independence. Hagar Shipley was never true to herself due to her pride. Hagar was afraid to show that she enjoyed something since she would supposedly lose pride. Hagar would say things she does not mean but had to say due to her pride, when taken into the retirement home which was ‘very nice’ she would say “I couldn’t care for a Barracks” (Stone Angel, 56) and would later understand that she should have not said that. Similarly, Rachel Cameron did not say the things she meant to say and never expressed her true emotions not because of pride, but on the contrary, she was generally paranoid having many doubts in herself and was afraid to hurt or offend others. She would say, “I’m sorry” and then immediately think to herself “I am not sorry one bit” (Jest of God, 78). As well both characters in a way deceived themselves since they assumed the worst of people and stuck to that assumption until that assumption was disproved. Hagar explicitly stated that as soon as she saw a new person she would immediately determine if she liked a person or not. Hagar had her own skewed and judgmental opinions on certain characters, like she claimed that Doris a fat woman without any taste. While Rachel always made up the worst possible intentions of people and thought about them, even an innocent laugh of children brought on thoughts like “Why did they laugh? There isn’t anything to be frightened of, in that laughter. Why should they have meant anything snide by it?” (A Jest of God 18). Neither of the characters were true to themselves, they rarely said what they meant and saw people as they were, this did not help solving their conflicts but instead prolonged them.


The best way to become true to one’s self is through self-realization, which is a prime asset in attaining true freedom and independence. After attaining self-realization, one becomes true to one’s self and accept what he is. Only at the end of Stone Angel and Hagar’s life did Hagar reach self-realization. Because of this Hagar has been seeking ‘true’ freedom again and again throughout her life. Once Hagar thought she achieved freedom, she was once again unhappy and would seek it again. Due to her desire to be independent and her artificial pride, Hagar ran away from her father by marrying Bram. Once she settled with Bram, then once again her pride pushed her to seek independence and to ‘save’ John from Bram. Lastly she decided to run away from Marvin and Doris thinking that she is independent and strong enough. She did not realize that she ‘is’ in fact a 0-year-old woman that cannot possibly survive on her own. Could Hagar have reached a self-realization earlier in her life, all her ‘fights’ for independence, which could ‘all’ be better classified as ‘hasty decisions’, would be unnecessary. Rachel as well, came to a point of self-realization near the end of the book. Unlike Hagar, Rachel had a chance to utilize this self-realization to the fullest extent, to bring forth many new and positive changes to her life. She finally realized that not all people are evil and malicious as she thought they were, that people wish some friendliness from her while she is “conjuring up dragons”(Jest of God 16) about them. She decided to take her life in her own hands and not her mother’s, and to move out from Manawaka to Vancouver when she could start a new life and a new begging with a new job. As contrasted by the two books self-realization is an excellent asset in gaining freedom and independence.


Breaking off from family members and their wishes is the hardest obstacle in attaining independence, but is the most crucial one. The biggest problem in attaining independence is the family members, their concerns and wishes for your future. Generally speaking your family tries to do what they ‘think’ is best for you, or in more complex situation, what is best for everyone. Alas that may not coincide with your wishes or plans, just like Hagar did not like the idea of Jason running her life and telling her whom she must or mustn’t marry or even talk to. Neither did Hagar liked the thought of John becoming like Bram, so once again she separated from family to gain independence. The concerns of the family also play a role; in both novels a close family member of the main character has serious heart problems. Hagar was being forced to move to a retirement house and lose her supposed pride and independence because Doris had heart problems and could no longer take care of Hagar. Similarly Rachel’s possibly attention-hungry mother used her weak heart condition to manipulate Rachel and by that cripple her social and real life. Upon reaching self-realization Rachel took over the authority and stated that she wanted to move to Vancouver, her mother, who was completely against moving or anything positive that happened to Rachel once again used her poor heart condition to claim that her heart cannot take the move, upsetting Rachel’s plans. But Rachel, overcoming the problem just took the risk. Overcoming or breaking away from family, their concerns or their wishes is sometimes a painful but a very necessary step in gaining independence.


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In the novels The Stone Angel and A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence, the life and journeys of the two main characters can be used to show a thematically connection between the two novels. Hagar Shipley and Rachel Cameron illustrate that the path to independence has many obstacles and necessary steps that one must undergo. Either through self-discovery or self-realization, one must become true to themselves and others, and from there break away or overcome family members and their wishes.





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