The Stone Angel

by

Margaret Laurence

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Hagar’s second son John is her favorite from birth. A bright and inquisitive child, John provides Hagar’s life with the kind of softness it’s been missing in the years since her marriage to Bram. Sensitive and emotional, John is pained by the taunts he endures at school because of who his father is—“Brambles Shitley.” Sensing her son’s pain, Hagar takes John with her when she leaves Bram—unknowingly setting off a chain of events that will turn John against her forever. The seeds of resentment towards his own family and legacy have already been sown in John by the time he leaves Manawaka, and as his mother takes up a housekeeping position and brings him to live in the large, luxurious home of the wealthy Mr. Oatley, John’s embarrassment over his low social standing deepens. When Hagar loses the funds for John’s college education in the stock market crash of 1929, John becomes even more hateful, and eventually decides to return to Manawaka to live with his estranged father and work on his farm. The decision leaves Hagar sad and lonely, and she misses her boy—but when he summons her to Manawaka to help care for Bram in the weeks leading up to his death, Hagar is startled to find that her son has transformed into a malnourished drunkard, living in squalor alongside his demented father. As Hagar realizes just how much like Bram John has become—and perhaps always was, though she was too blinded by love to notice—her concern for the boy grows, and she begins meddling in his affair with the wealthy Arlene Simmons in an attempt to control him and refocus his affections on her and her alone. The plan backfires tremendously—just as Hagar lashed out at her controlling father, so too does John defy the warning Hagar issued him in childhood: never to “play” on the railway tracks over the trestle bridge in town. John and Arlene are killed in a terrible accident during a game of chicken, though Hagar cannot bring herself to shed even one tear for her son’s loss, so stony and disconnected has she become.

John Shipley Quotes in The Stone Angel

The The Stone Angel quotes below are all either spoken by John Shipley or refer to John Shipley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Stone Angel published in 1964.
Chapter 4 Quotes

A Rest Room had recently been established in the town. I’d never been inside it, not fancying public conveniences. But I told John to let me off there that night. One room it was, with brown wainscoting and half a dozen straight chairs, and the two toilet cubicles beyond. No one was there. I made sure of that before I entered. I went in and found what I needed, a mirror. I stood for a long time, looking, wondering how a person could change so much and never see it. So gradually it happens.

I was wearing, I saw, a man’s black overcoat that Marvin had left. It was too big for John and impossibly small for Bram. It still had a lot of wear left in it, so I’d taken it. The coat bunched and pulled up in front, for I’d put weight on my hips, and my stomach had never gone flat again after John was born. Twined around my neck was a knitted scarf, hairy and navy blue, that Bram’s daughter Gladys had given me one Christmas. On my head a brown tarn was pulled down to keep my ears warm. My hair was gray and straight. I always cut it myself. The face— a brown and leathery face that wasn’t mine. Only the eyes were mine, staring as though to pierce the lying glass and get beneath to some truer image, infinitely distant.

Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

John put an arm around the girl’s shoulders, smearing her white pique dress.

“See you around, eh?” he said, and we left, he whistling and I bewildered.

“You could have been a little more polite,” I reproached him when we were out of earshot. “Not that I was much impressed with her. But still and all—”

“Polite!” He snorted with laughter. “That’s not what she wants from me.”

“What does she want—to marry you?”

“Marry? By Christ, no. She’d never marry a Shipley. It tickles her to neck with one, that’s all.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I snapped. “Don’t ever let me hear you speak like that again, John. In any case, she’s not the sort of girl for you. She’s bold and—”

“Bold? Her? She’s a rabbit, a little furry rabbit.”

“You like her, then?”

“Are you kidding? I’d lay her if I got the chance, that’s all.”

“You’re talking just like your father,” I said. “The same coarse way. I wish you wouldn’t. You’re not a bit like him.”

‘That’s where you’re wrong,” John said.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), John Shipley (speaker), Brampton “Bram” Shipley, Arlene Simmons
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

The marble angel lay toppled over on her face, among the peonies, and the black ants scurried through the white stone ring lets of her hair. Beside me, John laughed.

“The old lady’s taken quite a header.”

I turned to [John] in dismay. “Who could have done it?”

“How should I know?”

“We’ll have to set her up,” I said. “We can’t leave it like this.”

[…]

“Oh, all right,” he said. “I’ll do it, then.”

[…]

He sweated and grunted angrily. His feet slipped and he hit his forehead on a marble ear, and swore. His arm muscles tightened and swelled, and finally the statue moved, teetered, and was upright once more. John wiped his face with his hands.

“There. Satisfied?”

I looked, and then again in disbelief. Someone had painted the pouting marble mouth and the full cheeks with lipstick. The dirt clung around it but still the vulgar pink was plainly visible.

“Oh, Christ,” John said, as though to himself. “There’s that.”

“Who’d do such a thing?”

“She looks a damn sight better, if you ask me. Why not leave it?”

I never could bear that statue. I’d have been glad enough to leave her. Now I wish I had. But at the time it was impossible.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), John Shipley (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stone Angel
Page Number: 178-179
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

[The nurse] put a well-meaning arm around me. “Cry. Let yourself. It’s the best thing.” But I shoved her arm away. I straightened my spine, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life, to stand straight then. I wouldn’t cry in front of strangers, whatever it cost me.

But when at last I was home, alone in Marvin’s old bedroom, and women from the town were sitting in the kitchen below and brewing coffee, I found my tears had been locked too long and wouldn’t come now at my bidding. The night my son died I was transformed to stone and never wept at all. When the ministering women handed me the cup of hot coffee, they murmured how well I was taking it, and I could only look at them dry eyed from a great distance and not say a single word. All the night long, I only had one thought—I’d had so many things to say to him, so many things to put to rights. He hadn’t waited to hear.

I guess they thought it odd, some of the Manawaka people did, that after the funeral service was over I wouldn’t go out to the cemetery. I didn’t want to see where he was put, close by his father and close by mine, under the double-named stone where the marble angel crookedly stood.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), Marvin Shipley, John Shipley
Related Symbols: The Stone Angel
Page Number: 242-243
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“If I’ve been crabby with you, sometimes, these past years,” he says in a low voice, “I didn’t mean it.” I stare at him. Then, quite unexpectedly, he reaches for my hand and holds it tightly. Now it seems to me he is truly Jacob, gripping with all his strength, and bargaining. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And I see I am thus strangely cast, and perhaps have been so from the beginning, and can only release myself by releasing him. It’s in my mind to ask his pardon, but that’s not what he wants from me.

“You’ve not been cranky, Marvin. You’ve been good to me, always. A better son than John.”

The dead don’t bear a grudge nor seek a blessing. The dead don’t rest uneasy. Only the living. Marvin, looking at me from anxious elderly eyes, believes me. It doesn’t occur to him that a person in my place would ever lie.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), Marvin Shipley (speaker), John Shipley
Related Symbols: The Stone Angel
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Stone Angel LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Stone Angel PDF

John Shipley Character Timeline in The Stone Angel

The timeline below shows where the character John Shipley appears in The Stone Angel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...eyes. The eyes, she believes, are the only things that never change—indeed, her other son John’s eyes stayed the same, containing a hopeful sparkle, all his life—even “near the last.” Hagar... (full context)
Chapter 2
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...panic come upon her. She recalls how when he was a child, her other son John used to hold his breath during tantrums until either she or Bram would smack him... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
...photographs of herself as a young girl, of her father, and of her second son, John. She has no pictures of her ex-husband, Bram. Looking over the pictures, Hagar slips back... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...and Doris continue begging Hagar to see reason, but Hagar insists that “if it were John,” he wouldn’t “consign his mother” to such a place. Marvin starts an argument about John,... (full context)
Chapter 4
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar looks back on her memories of her son John. Bringing him into the world was easy, and she labored for fewer than six hours.... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Bram took to Marvin, but never to John—even when he tried to be kind towards John, there was an “edge to it.” Once,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
As John grew older, he grew wilder and more defiant—he swore, fought at school, and hung out... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...only occasionally. Even after Marvin left home, Bram still didn’t pay any more attention to John, who, at seven, couldn’t help Bram with the kind of tough chores that Marvin could.... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
One Saturday, John and Hagar went to town so that she could deliver eggs. When Hagar knocked on... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Hagar, embarrassed, quickly ducked away from John and into a public restroom. In the empty facility, Hagar found “what [she] needed”—a mirror—and... (full context)
Chapter 5
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...Hagar looks back on the last time she fled home—years ago, when she took twelve-year-old John and left Bram. John seemed both excited and reticent to leave—he suggested sneaking off without... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Once packed, Hagar and John went into the kitchen, where Hagar told a drunken and swaying Bram that they were... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...and the stone angel, “sightlessly guarding” over the dead still. As the train chugged along, John haughtily told Hagar that he’d traded the pin away for a jackknife. Hagar felt the... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Hagar looks back on the past, remembering how she and John came to live at a “gigantic” house owned by a lonely old man, Mr. Oatley,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
John and Hagar had their own separate rooms upstairs, and Hagar used her early paychecks to... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
John and Hagar lived in “reasonable content[ment,]” and came to learn that Mr. Oatley had made... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
As John entered high school, he began making friends in earnest—they would come by the house in... (full context)
Chapter 6
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar recalls more of her time at Mr. Oatley’s. When John was old enough to go to college, Hagar couldn’t afford to send him—instead, Mr. Oatley... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Eventually, Hagar and John committed themselves to working hard and saving money in pursuit of their common goal: to... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
John returned to Manawaka and wrote to Hagar only infrequently over the next two years, telling... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
John picked Hagar up from the station and drove her back to the Shipley farm, which... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...shambles,” and rotting food sat out all along the counters. The house looked terrible, and John himself looked thin and ragged with a face “like a skull’s.” Hagar noticed for the... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...were milky and “absent of expression,” and he did not recognize Hagar upon seeing her. John entered the room announcing it was time for “medicine,” and put before Bram a huge... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Hagar went into town with John to deliver eggs, and there they encountered a pretty but “silly” girl on the front... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
In Manawaka, John went out every night after dinner, and returned in his car-buggy only after daybreak. When... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
One afternoon, Hagar asked John to drive her out to the cemetery so that she could see whether the Currie... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
When the horrified Hagar asked who would do such a thing, John responded that the angel “look[ed] a damn sight better” for the makeup. Using John’s handkerchief,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin came home for the holidays and urged John to return to the city to find work, but the two fought and squabbled as... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
One morning after Marvin had already left, John and Hagar found Bram dead in his bed—he’d died in the night, with no one... (full context)
Chapter 7
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...Oatley to ask him for a few more weeks’ leave—she didn’t feel she could leave John just yet. However, as the days went by, she saw less and less of her... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Unable to take anymore, Hagar knocked at the kitchen door, interrupting John and Jess’s emotional conversation. She gave Jess the box containing Clara’s things. Jess was grateful,... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
One night, to Hagar’s surprise, Arlene brought John home in her father’s car. John was drunk and nearly passed out, and Arlene struggled... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
The next morning, John remembered that he’d attended a dance in town, but couldn’t recall anything about how he’d... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...the coast to work, but came back to Manawaka the following summer to visit with John during her vacation. She was surprised to find that the place was clean and orderly—John... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Hagar warned Arlene not to marry John, citing his poverty and heavy drinking. Arlene retorted that John hadn’t been drinking so much... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
After dinner that night, John took Arlene home while Hagar sat up waiting for him to return, looking around the... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...room covered with a heavy blanket, Hagar awoke to the sound of whispers and footsteps. John and Arlene had come home, and after looking around for Hagar but believing her to... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...Lottie seemed to be fairly happy for the two of them, citing Arlene’s claims that John had “settled down.” Hagar said that she didn’t have anything against the two of them... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...came by the Shipley place every day, and her presence agitated Hagar. As a result, John and Arlene began conducting their affair somewhere else—Hagar suspects now that they spent their days... (full context)
Chapter 8
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
One afternoon, back in Manawaka, John came into the house to tell Hagar that Arlene had decided to go East for... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar broke down, begging John to see that all she’d ever wanted was his happiness, and never wanted to see... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Every night for several nights, John took the truck into town. One night, Hagar decided not to wait up for him,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
At the hospital, Hagar sat with John, whose scant superficial injuries were nothing compared to the internal ones he’d suffered. John apologized... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...her tears wouldn’t come even at her own bidding—Hagar felt she’d “transformed to stone.” At John’s funeral, days later, Hagar did not go out to the cemetery to see the burial—she... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
...thing aloud. Murray urges Hagar to let all of her feelings out. Hagar laments that John’s death was senseless and pointless—for years, she’s felt enormous anger over what happened. Murray says... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
...she has had too much to drink. Hagar believes that the person beside her is John, though it’s still Murray sitting with her. Murray, concerned, says that Hagar needs a doctor,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...been married for over fifty years. Hagar’s neighbor asks her if her “man’s” name is John, as she cried the name out all night. Hagar turns her face away from the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...attempts to placate Marvin by telling him that he’s always been “a better son than John.” (full context)