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Essay/Term paper: Stone angel and fifth business - guilt

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Research Papers

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Every piece of literature that has been written uses words, which have concrete meaning
in everyday life. As a result of that it cannot ever be completely abstract. Theme is what sustains its link with living, by giving it a topic or idea that extends it beyond the aesthetic, and unites it with the preoccupation of humanity. A work can have one theme or many, and Margaret Laurence's and Davies Robertson's essential humanism makes it very inevitable that in this respect their novels are multifaceted. In their novels The Stone Angel and The Fifth Business the main characters Hagar Shipley and Dunny Ramsay through the birth, lack of feelings and escape from the family have undergone similar feelings of guilt through their whole lives.
First of all, Dunny the main character of The Fifth Business, for whom the snowball was intended, feels extremely guilty because he knew that Percy Staunton with whom he had earlier a fight, would throw one final snowball at him before he goes into the house for supper. To avoid the coming snowball he dodges around pregnant Mrs. Dempster who at the same time gets hit on the head, causing her great pain. Dunny is just reaching puberty and listening to his mother's reports on the premature birth of Paul Dempster gave him the sense that he is directly involved in it. Furthermore, he has been raised in a strict Presbyterian household that has encouraged him to feel guilty about almost every lapse of duty.
So at the beginning of the two novels the reader learns that the first feeling of guilt that the two main characters share is a birth of one of the characters presented in the novels. In The Stone Angel Hagar blamed herself for being born, because it was she that caused her mother's death. She felt that it should be her who should die not her mother. In The Fifth Business the main character Dunny felt really guilty for dodging a snowball that hit pregnant Mrs. Dempster. He knew that the snowball was thrown by Percy Staunton at him. "I was perfectly sure, you see, that the birth of Paul Dempster, so small, so feeble and troublesome, was my fault" (Davies 22) Ramsay blamed himself for not letting it hit him and a reader can receive the message in this quote said by him, "I was contrite and guilty, for what I knew that the snowball had been meant for me" (Davies 11) Maybe this incident didn't have any similarity to Hagar's birth yet, but later on in this novel it is known that it was the cause to Mrs. Dempster's son premature birth. Dunny's guilt got even greater that it had been. Now he feels obliged to take care of Mrs. Dempster and her son, he decides to play with him and even teach him his magic tricks. He was not able to get over the snowball incident as Hagar couldn't stand the fact she was the cause of her mother's death. Hagar didn't like mentioning that subject and when she did she quickly changed to another, "Auntie Doll...had been with us since my birth." (Davies 4) She didn't like to tell anyone about her mom's death, "He did not marry after our mother died..." (Laurance 14) Hagar was ashamed of it and that's why the reader can figure out by going further into the book that she felt guilty for what had happened. That's why Mrs. Curie is not mentioned in this book so many times.
Secondly, both main characters blamed themselves for being not able to express emotions to their family or their friends. Hagar could not comfort his dying brother Dan. She did not want to put on her mother's shawl. Despite, her brother, Matt's begging she did not do it, " 'Hagar-put it on and hold for a while.' I stiffened and drew away my hands. 'I can't. Oh Matt , I'm sorry, but I can't, I can't. I'm not a bit like her.' " (Laurance 21) Hagar did not want to play a person whom she did not know and being her own mother was beyond her. Similar situation occurred to Ramsay when he was in love with Leola Cruikshank, a beatiful girl who lived in the same town. He was unable to show his feelings towards her although he loved her very much. She was the first girl that he turned his attraction to. She has "cork-screw curls and a great way of never meeting your eyes." (Davies 30) However, like Hagar he never got the chance to express his feelings towards her. Soon after he enrolled into army Leola promised to love, but she quickly turned her attention to Percy. On the contrary, in The Stone Angel Hagar she did not get the chance to express her feelings, because Daniel died and she could not get over it later in her life.
Both main characters could not also express their feelings in relationships. Hagar, after she married Bram Shipley was very happy, but after some time they couldn't stand each other.
" 'It seems to me that Lottie Dreiser was right about you" (Laurance 44) and then she left him and went on with her life. Ramsay had even bigger problems with relationships and the best proof of that is the nurse that he met in England, Diana Marfleet, "She had fallen in love with me because she felt she had made whatever I was out of a smashed-up and insensible hospital case; but I don't think it was long before she was just as sure as I that our marriage would never have worked." (Davies 93) From these quotations the reader can get a message that they didn't want to be in any relationships, they were simply afraid of commtment and therefore abandoned their loved ones.
Moreover, Hagar and Dunny felt guilty for abounding their families. They did not want to be living with people who did not love them anymore, "He called me "miss" when he was displeased, and "daughter" when he felt kindly disposed toward me. Never Hagar." (Laurence 11) Ramsay had the same feelings about his parents as well, "I knew she had eaten my father, and I was glad I did not have to fight any longer to keep her from eating me." (Davies 81)
Despite, her father's warnings about Bram, Hagar quickly decided to marry him so she could be free from home that she detested. Their marriage was her final break between her and her father and it was all due to her. Ramsay's break up with parents begin the day he enlisted into the army, " I was nearly two years under age, but I was tall and strong and a good liar." (Davies 64) He was ready to do whatever it takes to be free of his family.
As time passed Ramsay met a nurse named Diana in an English hospital. This relationship was a turning point of his life, because she gave him a new name, Dunston Ramsay and a new start in his life, "I liked the idea of new name, it suggested freedom and a new personality." (Davies 93)
Another incident the the characters felt guilty of was the fact that they never mourned their parents. Hagar was still angry at her father for what he had done to her, "I hadn't much of a heart for this selection, being at the time too angry with Father either to mourn his death or want the stuff from his house." ( Laurence 55) She blamed herself for not forgiving him while she could. Ramsay could not mourn his parents either, he felt even happy that they were dead, "It was years before I though of the death of my parents as anything other than a relief." ( Davies 81) He knew he would never be his mother's laddie again.
In that way both main characters from the two novel had had experienced similar feelings of guilt throughout whole their lives. It took many years for them to realize that what they did was often very inappropriate and when they wanted to make up for what they did it was often too late for that. I think that the above mentioned facts prove the fact that Hagar and Ramsay as well had lived through guilt and finally when they get liberated from it they are too old to care anymore. Hagar would never realized that her mother was too weak to survive the birth and that's she died if she herself was not old and weak and Paul's premature birth wasn't Ramsay's fault either. He did not have to take care of Mrs. Dempster to make it up, he never realized that it was just an accident. Finally, I guess that they felt guilty for being not able expressing their feeling towards their families or friends, because through all the time they had rejected the love that their parents wanted to give them in their particular way. It was also the cause for not having any luck in relationships with others.


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