Survival Finding ones place in society is a major dilemma many people face every day. Once people find their place in society they understand who they are, what is expected by them and what their roles are. Once a person has found their place in society they understand their life and which direction it is going. The main characters are portrayed as two different individuals with very different lives who have only one thing in common- their inability to find their proper place in society. Brian Moore, and Margaret Laurences concern for the plight of the individual and their position in society is clearly self-evident in their novels The Luck of Ginger Coffey and The Stone Angel .
The main characters Ginger Coffey and Hagar Shipley both struggle to survive with dignity even though their overwhelming pride often obscures reality. Throughout the novel it becomes evident that both Ginger Coffey and Hagar Shipleys overwhelming sense of pride obscures their reality and therefore causing problems for them. Coffey the main character in Brian Moores novel The Luck of Ginger Coffey is portrayed as a comic hero who has endless limitations that he does not see. Ginger Coffey believes he is his own man, which is why he leaves his homeland Ireland and moves to Canada . Coffey believes Ireland would not allow him to become the person he thought he could be, ” What was his aim in life ? Well..he supposed it was to be his own master, to provide for Vera and Paulie, to..to what ?..To make something of himself, he supposed.” (Moore, pg.21) Coffeys values do not seem to be unrealistic or selfish in themselves, but because he sets unobtainable and unrealistic goals he encounters numerous failures. Coffey cannot content himself with a simple job and provide for his family in this way; he wants to become someon! e important, and achieve personal status. Not realizing that these very ideas bind him to a life of repetitive failures. Because of his pride Coffey sees himself not as the middle aged man that he is, but as an attractive young boy out for new adventures.
“Now in his prime, he considered himself a fine big fellow with a soldierly straightness to him, his red hair thick as ever and a fine mustache to boot.” (Moore, pg. 58) Coffey does not seem to be aware of reality around him, nor of how others see him. “Look at this one with his tiny green hat, short bulky coat and suede boots. A man that age should know better than to dress as a college boy.”(Moore, pg. 23) Although others see him as he is, a middle aged man trying to act like a teenager, Coffey is blinded by pride and not aware of who he really is.
All he knows is that he wants to make something of himself. But because of the false image he has of himself, he encounters endless frustrations in his search for work. ! He strives always for the most demanding jobs ; although he is not qualified in any way to fill any of the positions he applies for. Yet, in the end, things do not improve as Coffey thought they would , once he left Ireland. Coffey continues to be the same childish boy full of hopes and dreams unable to find his place within society.
Margaret Laurences heroine in a way faces the same dilemma that Coffey does. Hagar Shipley in The Stone Angel is a ninety year old woman, desperately trying to live out her last days in some sort of dignity . But Hagar like Coffey suffers, for it is because of her pride, that she is unable to see the real world around her, or try to understand it. Hagar sees herself as a young woman, trapped in an old body. Thus she tries endlessly with many frustrations to do things for herself, and always fails. Hagar becomes resentful, moody, childish and angry when her son Marvin or her daughter-in-law try to help her.
Hagar feels that they are trying to take her pride away, the one thing Hagar could not face up to, “I always swore Id never be a burden-” (Laurence, pg. 37) Hagar finds it difficult to accept the fact that old age has placed limits on her capabilities. Just as Coffey is unable to face the fact that he does not have the capabilities to obtain the goals he has set for! himself. When Hagars daughter-in-law tries to tell her that she has wet her bed, Hagar is very upset, ” Thats a lie. I never did any such thing.
Youre making it up. I know your ways. Just so youll have some reason for putting me away.”(Laurence, pg. 74) Hagars pride will not allow her to accept the reality about herself, nor will it allow her to communicate openly with others. Hagar does not see herself as a burdensome old woman, but as a person with a past, a present and perhaps still some future.
She is an individual, something her pride will not allow her to sacrifice, in order to play the various roles society wants her to play. Doris and her son Marvin want to take Hagar out of her own home, for her own good, and put her away in a nursing home. For this is where society says that the old and helpless belong. But Hagar refuses to accept this role, as Coffey refuses in the beginning to lower his standards and accept menial jobs. Hagar will not allow others t! o take away her pride and self-respect ; therefore she desperately hangs on to life the only way she knows. In order to do this, she feels she must become an unpleasant, proud, bitter and vengeful character.
Brian Moore and Margaret Laurence portray both Hagar and Coffey as two people struggling to survive with some dignity even when the world seems to be against them. Throughout the novel Hagar struggles to survive with dignity. Hagar does not face the fact that she is old and can not do things for herself. She is constantly struggling with herself as she continuously tries to do everything for herself even though she never succeeds. When Doris tries to persuade her to go into a nursing home Hagar refuses.
“How can I leave my house ? I dont want to leave my house and all my things ?” (Laurence, pg. 119) Hagar is not willing to give up her freedom, she runs away and manages to get herself back home to Manawaka. Yet, Hagar struggles to care for herself and eventually contemplates going back home. “No, Ill not do it…. if I went back..shed known all along she could not trust me out of her sight for a moment..Theyd crate me up in the car and deliver me like a parc! el of old clothes to that place.” (Laurence, pg.
) This portrays Hagars inner struggle. Although Hagar is not able to care for herself as she once was she is determined not to give up her freedom or her pride and be sent off to a nursing home. Eventually Hagar realizes that she may not have a choice. “I cant move, I cant rise. Im stuck here like an overturned ladybug, frantically waving to summon help that wont come..I hurt all over , but the worst is that Im helpless.” …