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Word Count: 639
Strength Without Beauty Theres a funny popular notion in our culture -- an unwritten one -- that says that the things we enjoy must either be pleasant or noticeably horrific Movies must make us smile or cringe Art must either make us feel good or frighten us Music must either soothe or make us dance Photographs must be pretty The Stone Angel doesnt fit with these expectations It is not a warm book and the smiles that come are forced and perhaps expectant But neither is it frightening in a very obvious way There is no gore and certainly no ski masks What we see is the life of a woman spread over 91-odd years We see her looking over her shoulder at the end of her life and -- in retrospect -- seeing that she is less certain of it now than I was then Hagar Currie Shipley is a character that deserves a special place in modern literature she is utterly unique and without parallel because Hagar is a very difficult woman to like and she has been for a long time Almost it seems forever The daughter of a successful Scottish merchant Hagar chooses to marry the man her father is most likely to disapprove Her father is hard and unforgiving He dies without seeing his daughter again and without meeting her sons his grandsons We learn that many of the fathers traits belong to the daughter She lives her life joylessly not sharing her inner self or gentleness with her husband or her two sons She finds herself eventually mortified by her farmer husbands country ways And scornful of her sons dreams and ambitions We find her late in life the picture of the crotchety old lady being cared for by her eldest -- and least loved -- son and his aging wife As an old woman Hagar is critical and sharp-tongued and unrelenting She has lived
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