The Stone Angel

by

Margaret Laurence

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Marvin Shipley Character Analysis

Hagar’s oldest son Marvin is, at the start of the novel, a veritable mess. Caught between the demands of his ailing mother and his frustrated wife Doris, he knows that a decision about Hagar’s well-being must be made, but is, for a long time, too afraid to make it. Marvin is represented as a quiet, stoic, and occasionally emasculated individual whose desire to please everyone around him competes directly with his own strong moral compass. After leaving Manawaka to join the army at seventeen, Marvin never returned to live in his hometown and instead struck out on his own, making a life for himself away from his parents and his ancestral homeland. Marvin has always been something of a loner, though his marriage to Doris and the two children they share have given him a sense of family—even if Hagar has lingered around to put that hard-won foundation to the test. As the novel progresses and Marvin’s relationships with both Hagar and Doris weather pain, anger, and resentment, his painful past as his parents’ least-favorite son and his claustrophobic future as his mother’s only lifeline collide.

Marvin Shipley Quotes in The Stone Angel

The The Stone Angel quotes below are all either spoken by Marvin Shipley or refer to Marvin 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

It’s better to know, but disappointing, too. I wonder now if I really want to fling this door wide. I do and don’t. Perhaps the thing inside will prove more terrible even than one’s imaginings.

Meantime, Doris feels it behooves her to bolster Marvin.

“It’s just as Marv says—the doctor says you’d be much better off—”

“Oh, stow it,” Marvin says, all of a sudden. “If you don’t want to go there, Mother, you don’t need to.”

“Well, I like that!” Doris is outraged. “And who’ll do the laundry, I’d like to know? You, I suppose?”

“I don’t know what in hell I’m supposed to do,” Marvin says. “I’m caught between two fires.”

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), Marvin Shipley (speaker), Doris Shipley (speaker)
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

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 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 9 Quotes

What could I possibly tell her, I wonder, that could do her any good? She knows a lot more than I did when I married. Or maybe she doesn’t, really, but who’s to tell her? I haven’t a word to send her, my granddaughter. Instead, I tug at my right hand, pull and shake, and finally wrench off the ring.

“Send her this, Doris, will you? It was my mother’s sapphire. I’d like Tina to have it.”

Doris gasps. “Are you—are you sure you really want to, Mother?”

Something in her eyes saddens me, makes me want to turn away.

“Of course I’m sure. What use is it to me? I should’ve given it to you, I suppose, years ago. I could never bear to part with it. Stupid. Too bad you never had it. I don’t want it now. Send it to Tina.”

“Mother—” Marvin has a very loud voice sometimes. “Are you sure?”

Speechlessly I nod. Why all this fuss? In another moment I’ll take the wretched thing back, to shut them up. Doris pops it in her purse, as if she’s been thinking the same thing.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), Marvin Shipley (speaker), Doris Shipley (speaker)
Page Number: 279
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:

As he goes out, I hear the nurse speaking to him in the corridor. “She’s got an amazing constitution, your mother. One of those hearts that just keeps on working, whatever else is gone.”

A pause, and then Marvin replies. “She’s a holy terror,” he says.

Listening, I feel like it is more than I could now reasonably have expected out of life, for he has spoken with such anger and such tenderness.

Related Characters: Hagar Shipley (speaker), Marvin Shipley (speaker)
Page Number: 304-305
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Stone Angel LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Stone Angel PDF

Marvin Shipley Character Timeline in The Stone Angel

The timeline below shows where the character Marvin 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
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...remain of her life, Hagar often slips into reverie. She lives with her eldest son Marvin and his wife Doris, and is well-aware of the fact that they’re frightened of her... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...asks Hagar if she’d like to come down to have some tea with her and Marvin. Hagar says she wants to stay upstairs for now, but would like Doris to make... (full context)
Womanhood Theme Icon
...and more often lately. Doris struggles to help Hagar up, but cannot. She calls for Marvin as Hagar unwillingly begins crying—Hagar sees her tears as “the incontinent wetness of the infirm.” (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin comes upstairs and helps Hagar up. Her sixty-five-year-old son is generally calm and unshaken, but... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...together in a fairly large four-bedroom house Hagar bought for herself years earlier. Doris and Marvin have two grown children, Steven and Tina, who are in their twenties and live on... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar apologizes for being a burden, but Marvin and Doris quickly try to placate her and insist she isn’t one. When Hagar again... (full context)
Chapter 2
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...with Doris not to sell the house or place her in a home. Hagar suggests Marvin and Doris move out and leave her alone in the house with all of her... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...living room and looks around at all of her things. She cannot believe Doris and Marvin “regard the house as theirs.” As Hagar looks around at the knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, and family... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...son, her father still did not want a relationship with her. Even when her son Marvin was born, he still refused to come to the Shipley farm—Hagar now suspects that Jason... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...warns Hagar not to talk about such things, as the thought of Hagar dying upsets Marvin, but Hagar curtly replies that Marvin never gets upset—“not even at what happened to his... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin comes into the living room and Hagar asks him to fetch her cigarettes for her.... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
...sits in a large armchair in her room, relieved to be away from Doris and Marvin if only for a little. She looks through the pictures she keeps in her room:... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin knocks at the door and asks to come in. When he opens the door, Doris... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin and Doris continue begging Hagar to see reason, but Hagar insists that “if it were... (full context)
Chapter 3
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
That night, after supper, Doris suggests they all go for a drive. Marvin and Doris tuck Hagar carefully into the back seat, bundle her up with pillows, and... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Inside, the matron of the home shows Marvin, Doris, and Hagar around. She offers lovely descriptions of the activities and amenities provided to... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...running across the lawn towards Hagar, shouting about what a “scare” Hagar’s given her and Marvin. She points out that Hagar looks as if she’s been crying, but Hagar waves her... (full context)
Chapter 4
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
After the doctor’s report reaches Marvin and Doris days later, they are “secretive about it” and tell her only that the... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...him that he was more like her than Bram. John was not as big as Marvin as he grew, but nor was he delicate. Hagar loved John best, and was always... (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... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
At seventeen, Marvin joined the army and went off to fight in the first World War. After the... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...Hagar quickly grows embarrassed. Back at home, as soon as they walk in the door, Marvin—who has been pacing the living-room “like a bear in some zoo pit,” announces that Hagar... (full context)
Chapter 5
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...will “not sleep a wink tonight.” She resolves not to “bend meekly” to Doris and Marvin’s plans for her, and begins scheming of ways to avoid her quickly-approaching fate. She tries... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Considering fleeing Marvin and Doris, Hagar looks back on the last time she fled home—years ago, when she... (full context)
Chapter 6
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...home but also believing for several moments that she is back in her house with Marvin and Doris. She gets angry with them for trying to unseat her from her home,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...there. John admitted that he had been writing Bram secretly for some time, and that Marvin, too, had been in communication with their father. Hagar warned John that Bram only wanted... (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... (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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...a moment to head back home, to the comforts of the house she shares with Marvin and Doris, but then becomes determined not to give up—or to allow herself to be... (full context)
Chapter 8
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...kill the squawking bird out of mercy, and as she languishes in indecision, she wishes Marvin were with her—he’d know what to do. She wonders where the two of them are,... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...lady is doing all alone, and asks if Hagar’s all right. Hagar suddenly believes that Marvin and Doris have sent the man to bring her back, and she tells him that... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...responsibilities beyond [his] means.” John chastised Hagar for failing, all these years, to see that Marvin was always “[her] boy,” not him. (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
...next few weeks she packed up the Shipley place, and sent anything of value to Marvin. Hagar returned to Mr. Oatley’s and got back to work. When he, too, died in... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
...the need for a nap. The confused Hagar begs Murray not to tell her son, Marvin, where she is. Murray promises, and Hagar believes him. They “slip into sleep” side by... (full context)
Chapter 9
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
...while, hears footsteps approaching. When the door opens, she turns her head to face it: Marvin, Doris, and Murray have all come for her. (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Marvin is relieved that they have found Hagar.  Doris, though, is furious with the woman for... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Marvin urges Doris to shut up—they need to take care of Hagar, who is clearly suffering... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Murray offers to help Doris and Marvin take Hagar out of the cannery, but they tell him he can leave. Hagar allows... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Hagar says she wishes Marvin had gotten her a semi-private room. Her neighbor reveals that she met Marvin yesterday, and... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar naps, and wakes to find Marvin sitting beside her. Hagar is pleased to see him, and doesn’t mean to start complaining,... (full context)
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Hagar asks where Doris is, and Marvin explains that she’s had a “spell” and isn’t feeling well. He admits that he’s worried... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
The next day, Hagar receives visits from Doctor Corby, Doris, and Marvin. Doris brings her flowers to cheer her up, along with the other things she’s asked... (full context)
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
Marvin tells Hagar that he’s arranged for her to move to a semi-private room. Rather than... (full context)
Chapter 10
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
...bed, she is confused as to where she is, and believes she is home with Marvin and Doris. As she stands to walk to the bathroom, a nurse stops her and... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
One afternoon, in the midst of a terrible pain, Hagar receives a visitor—Marvin. At the sight of her son, she tells him how frightened she is, but immediately... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Choices and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
In the hall, Hagar overhears Marvin speaking to one of the nurses. When the nurse remarks that Hagar has an “amazing... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Hagar recalls the last time she ever went to Manawaka. She visited alongside Marvin and Doris, and was shocked to see the changes in the town. The old Shipley... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...three of them drove out to the cemetery, and though Doris stayed in the car, Marvin and Hagar walked out to the family plot. The stone angel still stood, but had... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Resentment Theme Icon
At the sight of Marvin and Hagar, a young caretaker came up and spoke to them. Taking them for tourists,... (full context)
Memory and the Past Theme Icon
Womanhood Theme Icon
...in her ninety years, and can think only of two—one being her recent lie to Marvin. (full context)