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The Shipping News

Annie Proulx

Chapters 31–33

Chapters 28–30

Chapters 34–36

Summary

Chapter 31: Sometimes You Just Lose It

In the newsroom, Quoyle is writing a story about a ship that collided into an island after the man on watch fell asleep. Tert Card comes in, enraged at the cold weather. He talks about heading down to Florida. The men begin swapping potential news stories. Per usual, the stories are all perverse. Billy Pretty and Nutbeem have more stories of sexually abhorrent men stripping in court. Nutbeem is planning his departure, preparing to sail down to the Caribbean. Billy Pretty suggests that Quoyle will probably be the next to leave, but Quoyle confirms that he is in Newfoundland to stay. In response, Billy Pretty remarks that he does not believe a man can raise two girls on his own.

Chapter 32: The Hairy Devil

Nutbeem is scheduled to depart Newfoundland in accordance with a waxing moon. The local men are all getting together for a party in his trailer. The party is a raucous affair, with everyone drinking too much. Tert Card tells Quoyle the story of the "hairy devil." Tert Card's father lost a friend one night in the snow. When the father followed the friend's tracks, they led to a hole spiraling downward. All of a sudden, a "hairy devil" with red eyes jumps from behind Tert's father into the hole, telling him he will come back for him.

The party begins to get rowdy, and a black-haired man suggests they all go down to Nutbeem's boat, and destroy it so that Nutbeem will not be able to leave them. Quoyle, in his drunkenness, watches the mob, and feels nothing but his own loneliness—he is left out of the action once again. The boat is destroyed to the point that it sinks into the water. Meanwhile, Quoyle wanders over to Wavey's home, and looks in the window to see her playing with Herry. Quoyle ends up staying the night in a hotel room.

Chapter 33: The Cousin

In the morning, Quoyle returns to Beety and Dennis's house, where he was supposed to spend the night, and cannot recall anything from the night before. Quoyle then goes back to the house on the point to pick up some things. He feels eerie there all alone, and finds knotted twine on the thresholds of his children's rooms. Knowing that this is a cruel trick played by Quoyle's old cousin Nolan. Quoyle immediately heads up to Capsize Cove to find him. The old hermit is a madman living in fishing grime and stench. Quoyle sees a white dog first, and then recognizes the family resemblance in the old man. Without a fight, Quoyle drops the twine, which the man throws in the fire.

Quoyle then goes down to help Alvin Yard finish Quoyle's boat, and after that, to go see about Nutbeem's boat. The men have been unsuccessful in resurrecting the boat from its destruction. Nutbeem decides he will go to Brazil, and tells the men about all the good food he hopes to eat. Everyone feels bad about the circumstances with the boat.

Analysis

Tert Card's story of the hairy devil reflects his own demonic character, and also foreshadows the tragic destruction of Nutbeem's boat. From the beginning, Tert Card is described as a devil, and his story suggests that the association comes from his family history. The hairy devil, with his red eyes and hole beneath ground, promises he will come back for Tert Card's father—it seems the devil did come back in the form of possessing Tert Card. The reader should note that Tert Card is the first to the party, symbolically (though not literally) leading the force that will take down Nutbeem's boat. The story of the hairy devil foreshadows this mob scene. The party takes place on a night when the moon is waxing—a fuller moon symbolizes the potential for madness and savagery. When Quoyle stumbles out walking, he notices that the moon's reflection looked like a hole in the ocean, or like the hole where the hairy devil lived. Nutbeem's boat breaks and falls into the sea, symbolically down the hairy devil's hole.

Tert Card's story also provides another example of Newfoundland oral literature, which tells more about a people and a place than it gives factual information. Stories like these produce an anthropological catalog that adds to the regionalism theme of the novel. Hell, according to this story, looks like a hole in the ice, and the devil, like a wild animal. Although heaven and hell may be considered universal images recognized by nearly every culture, the form they take among any given people tells of the particular people's fears, hopes, and values. Perhaps the idea that the hairy devil has to wash his pots an pans before coming back even speaks of Newfoundlanders proximity to manual labor and the physical world in general.

The decimation of Nutbeem's boat in Chapter 32 echoes Chapter 10: The Voyage of Nutbeem. The introduction to Chapter 10 defines a voyage in two ways: first, a roundtrip passage, and second, a passage from port to port. At that point in the novel, Nutbeem still plans on finishing his trip around the world. By Chapter 32 it is clear that Nutbeem's romantic dream of continuing his life at sea will not come to be. In a way, though, Nutbeem still represents the completed passage. Throughout the novel, he is associated with the lunar cycle. He oscillates between adrenaline rushes and quiet contemplation, like a waxing and waning moon. When he loses his boat, his loss does not last, but passes quickly into a new phase. He is determined to move on to Brazil, to as he says "smile, forget, and fly."

Quoyle's trip to his cousin's house is the climax of the subplot that develops around the ominous knots and the mysterious kinsman. The reader is virtually prepared for a shoot-out, having been prepared for this meeting for many chapters. The numerous incidents that involved Quoyle finding knotted twine, or Bunny seeing a white dog developed suspense for this subplot. When Quoyle (and the reader) finally arrive at the meeting point, the interaction is anticlimactic. Instead of a malicious criminal, Quoyle finds a weak, impoverished, crazy person, but even more importantly, Quoyle finds someone who resembles himself and his family.

The moment when Quoyle recognizes his own abhorrent chin in the face of the cousin is extremely ironic. Nolan's so-called crimes are "loneliness," "lovelessness, "genetic chemical jumble," or "betrayal." Quoyle may as well be naming his own life-diagnosis. Quoyle's greatest threat is not a malicious outside force (as every story of the Quoyles suggests), but his own self in pain. His most fearful enemy is his own debilitating weakness borne of loneliness or lovelessness. The reader recalls the important imagery in Chapter 20 describing Quoyle looking down into his ancestral cemetery: Proulx writes that he pulls his head back like a snake looking in a mirror. The moment in Nolan's home dramatizes a similar kind of mirroring.

The title of Chapter 33 ("Cousin") also provides insight into the relationship between Nolan and Quoyle. Chapter 17: The Shipping News actually uses a definition of "cousin" ("favored person aboard ship") as an introduction; Chapter 17 tells the story of how Quoyle landed himself his job as the shipping news columnist. In this context, Quoyle fit the definition of "cousin" that preceded the chapter. Chapter 33 tells the story of Quoyle meeting up with the literal "cousin." Both men are therefore, called by the same name at different points in the novel. The "cousin" that everyone likes is the alter ego of the madman borne of loneliness and rejection.

Colors act symbolically throughout these chapters and in the novel as a whole. In Chapter 33 when Quoyle goes to see his cousin, Quoyle expresses his pity for him by thinking that he probably sees "bloody rain and black snow"; Quoyle's pity is based on an idea that the cousins world exists not in clear and white (rain and snow) but in red and black.

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Question

by Anki145, August 23, 2012

Why doesn't the "The Sun Clouds Over" chapter have a "Chapter 30:" in front of it like all of the rest of the chapters do?

2 Comments

2 out of 5 people found this helpful

Spelling mistake

by serg06, February 26, 2014

Chapter 36, second paragraph, first sentence: "diromg" instead of "during".

Spelling mistake

by serg06, February 26, 2014

Chapter 37, paragraph 3, sentence 2: "turn7"

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