King Lear vs. The Stone Angel Essay

This essay has a total of 1900 words and 7 pages.

King Lear vs. The Stone Angel

It has been said that, "Rivers and mountains may change; human nature,
never."(worldofquotes.com) This is a quote that can be deconstructed when examining
William Shakespeare's King Lear and Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. When reviewing
the two books the main characters, King Lear and Hagar, are easily comparable. The first
similarity becomes apparent when King Lear and Hagar are both developed as flawed
characters. Secondly, because of their flaws the two characters become blind to reality.
Thirdly, after being deceived by themselves and others as a result of their blindness,
both characters seek refuge outside of their own homes. By leaving their homes the
characters are able to gain perspective on themselves and their pasts. Finally, despite
these similarities between King Lear and Hagar, a significant difference prevails after
the characters experience their epiphanies and are awarded a chance to redeem themselves.
When exploring King Lear and The Stone Angel it becomes clear that although both main
characters engage in similar journeys to self discovery a critical difference between the
two books exists in the character's ability to redeem themselves after their epiphany.

It first became clear that Shakespeare's King Lear and Laurence's Hagar Shipley were
similar main characters when their personalities were developed with flaws. King Lear was
immediately revealed as an imperfect character when he was shown in his somewhat
conflicting roles as a father and a king. After resolving to divide his kingdom amongst
his three daughters Lear develops a way to decide how his power and land will be divided.
Looking to his three children Lear probes, "Tell me, my daughters/ (Since now we will
divest us both of rule,/ Interest of territory, cares of state),/ Which of you shall we
say doth love us most?/ That we our largest bounty may extend/ Where nature doth with
merit challenge."(I.i.49-54) It is at this point in the play that King Lear reveals
himself as superficial. Knowing he had already divided his land in three Lear could have
presented it to his daughters as each receives one third of the kingdom. However, Lear is
flawed in that he is superficial and rather than hand over his land and power he would
rather hear his daughters competitively praise him for it. Similarly to Lear's flaw Hagar
is also an imperfect character in The Stone Angel. Hagar, an elderly woman living with her
son Marvin and his wife Doris, demonstrates the flawed qualities of being both too
prideful and irrational. These qualities become apparent when Marvin and Doris talk to
Hagar about selling their house. Being older themselves, Marvin and Doris decide that they
can no longer provide Hagar with the care she requires and that it would be in her best
interest to move into the Silverthreads Nursing Home. When Hagar finds our she quickly
states, "Doris--I won't go there. That place. Oh you know all right. You know what I mean,
my girl. No use to shake your head. Well, I won't. The two of you can move out. Go ahead
and move right out. Yes, you do that. I'll stay here in my house."(57) Hagar is showing
that she has too much pride to move into a home where she would be carefully monitored and
assisted but is also being irrational by saying that she would remain in her house without
Marvin and Doris there to help her. When comparing King Lear and Hagar Shipley their
similarities are shown in the flawed character traits that they both possess.

The next similarity shown between King Lear and Hagar is that as a result of their
personal flaws, both characters become blind to reality. After Cordelia fails to
adequately profess her love to her father she is banished and the kingdom in divided
between Lear's other two daughters Goneril and Regan. During his stay with Goneril Lear
becomes enraged in her poor treatment of him. He decides he and his train of men will be
happier living with Regan. While Lear complains to Regan about her sister, Regan fully
supports Goneril and openly condemns Lear leaving Goneril's house. Faced with the reality
that neither of his daughters truly love and support him as they had claimed Lear says to
Regan, "No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse."(II.iv.170) After realizing her open
lack of love for him Lear pleads to Regan and himself, "Thou better knowest/ The offices
of nature, bond of childhood,/ Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude./ Thy half of the
kingdom hast thou not forgot,/ Wherein I thee endowed."(II.iv.177-181) Because Lear
superficially asked his daughters to profess their love, he has now been deceived by their
falsely promoted emotions and is impervious to the fact that his daughters have used him
to obtain their own power and possessions. In the same way that Lear is blinded to the
actions of his daughters because of his flaws, Hagar is blind to her own actions because
she is too prideful. When Marvin and Doris try to explain that they are no longer able to
provide Hagar with the care she needs Doris mentions that Hagar has been wetting her
sheets. Struck by the accusation that she could be so irresponsible and not know about it
Hagar says angrily, "That's a lie. I never did any such thing."(74) Even though Doris and
Marvin both know that Hagar has been wetting her sheets every night, Hagar has too much
pride to admit that she may have lost control of her own body. Evidently it is because of
Hagar's pride that she will not acknowledge or admit to her unflattering actions. After
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