Hagar Shipley has faced many hardships in her life, starting in childhood with the death of her mother and her father's specific expectations for her. After leaving those expectations behind and marrying Bram Shipley, she continues to face difficult situations and a marriage that becomes increasingly unbearable. She also experiences the death of her son, John. To face these hardships, Hagar shuts down her emotions, preventing herself from being vulnerable. This is a key aspect of her character as her survivor—she prevents herself from being vulnerable in order to keep on living. It also affects her in negative ways: to survive, she pushes people away and alienates her family members.
Scenes throughout the novel reveal Hagar's stubbornness—a related characteristic of survival—even in her old age. This is first evident in chapter 1, when Hagar refuses to listen to her son Martin when he explains why he wants to move her into a nursing home. She lashes out at him and Doris, his wife, another sign of both her refusal to be vulnerable and her desire to follow her own path. Throughout The Stone Angel, Hagar Shipley is determined to be independent.
This independent instinct is most visible in Hagar's solo trip to Shadow Point, which happens over the course of the novel. She doesn't quite know the way, but perseveres and makes it to Shadow Point through sheer determination. Earlier on, Hagar showed this same determination in leaving Bram when the situation was unbearable. She is motivated by the desire to live independently on her own terms. Her refusal to consider her own mortality might also be considered a characteristic of a survivor: Hagar denies any opportunity to be unsure about her future, believing it is in her own hands.