Skip over navigation

The Shipping News

Annie Proulx

Chapters 34–36

Chapters 31–33

Chapters 37–39

Summary

Chapter 34: Dressing Up

Quoyle reluctantly agrees to go out for a drink with Tert Card. Card tells Quoyle he is leaving Killick-Claw to go work in St. John's, writing a newsletter for oil suppliers. Much to Quoyle's disgust, Card is apathetically leaving behind his home and family. Card also makes threats to Quoyle about the change the jobs will take at the newspaper.

The Christmas pageant is a huge tradition in Killick-Claw. Bunny and her friend Marty Buggit perform a song together, but the real star is Beety, who does a skit in which she tells and acts out a story about Billy Pretty and another local old woman, Auntie Flizzard. Christmastime brings up painful childhood memories for Quoyle, but mostly, he cannot stop thinking about Petal. He and Wavey exchange gifts, but Quoyle is thinking about Petal's only gift to him; Petal did not buy Quoyle anything for Christmas, but once went into the refrigerator and presented him with two brown eggs that Quoyle had bought himself. The day after Christmas, Quoyle and Dennis Buggit take some homemade bread up to Nolan and talk about getting him put in a home.

Chapter 35: The Day's Work

Jack Buggit tells Quoyle that he will be the new managing editor (and will have a host of other responsibilities), now that Tert Card is leaving. They will also be upgrading the "home" section to a "lifestyles" page, which will address social and technological changes instead of provincial recipes and crafts. A new guy, Benny, will take over the S.A. stories, replacing Nutbeem. Quoyle takes over Tert Card's desk, removing the oil tanker picture from the wall. He finds Benny's sexual abuse stories far less interesting than Nutbeem's. Quoyle begins his work covering all kinds of local stories, and vows he will never let a typo go by. He sends a copy of the new masthead (with his name) to Partridge and sends the aunt a clip about Silver Melville. As it turns out, Silver and the steward from her boat were captured in Hawaii.

Chapter 36: Straitjacket

Partridge calls Quoyle to tell him about a tragic end to their old paper. A rioter went into the office and killed almost the entire staff, including Al Catalog and Ed Punch. According to Partridge, riots are sweeping the country. Quoyle realizes he might be dead if he had stayed in Mockingburg, New York.

Jack and Quoyle have a meeting about the paper diromg a cod-gutting session. Jack is upset over fishing quotas and the overall disempowerment of local fishermen. Quoyle asks if he can stop running fake ads in the paper, and replace them with news stories.

Quoyle is trying to figure out if he (as next of kin) should sign the papers that would keep his cousin Nolan in an institution for life. He and Wavey go down to St. John's where she enjoys shopping while Quoyle goes to visit Nolan in the asylum. Quoyle brings a photograph of a poodle as a present, and Nolan feels ashamed for his past malicious gestures toward Quoyle. Quoyle thinks he will look into another home in Killick-Claw in an attempt to get Nolan out of the crazy-bin. Nolan tells Quoyle a story of the aunt aborting a child as a result of a sexual encounter with Guy; it seems obvious that he raped her. Quoyle leaves, and he and Wavey have a lovely night together in St. John's. Nolan did not seem so crazy, but in the morning he has stabbed everyone with the glass from Quoyle's photograph gift.

Analysis

Tert Card's departure symbolically cleanses the narrative of evil forces. Card makes his final appearance at the bar where he and Quoyle have a post-work drink, and this scene dramatizes the polar extremes that Quoyle and Card represent in the book. First of all, Card is moving to take a job where he will represent the new, multi-national oil industry, while Quoyle remains in Killick- Claw covering local stories, and therefore representing local people's interest. Secondly, Card is not only leaving his wife and children behind in Killick-Claw, but he acts outraged that Quoyle would think anything different; Quoyle claims that part of the reason he is staying in Newfoundland is for his girls who have settled into this place and made friends there. When Quoyle leaves Tert Card at the bar in favor of going home to his children, the narrative shows these two characters moving in exactly opposite directions.

Christmastime brings many of Quoyle's painful memories to the surface and this renewed pain creates suspense for the remaining portion of the novel. These chapters still leave open the possibility of Quoyle reverting back to a hurt, miserable place. In Chapter 34, the narrative juxtaposes Petal's unkindness with Wavey's generosity, and still Quoyle chooses Petal. Dennis tells him of Wavey's charitable benevolence toward Nolan, and Quoyle imagines telling Dennis of Petal's charms. Wavey knits Quoyle a sweater for Christmas, showing a great deal of thoughtfulness. The explicit reference to the fact that the sweater is not too small shows that Wavey knows and accepts of Quoyle's physical form. And though Petal always found Quoyle's body disgusting, he still only thinks of Petal's terribly thoughtless "gift" of eggs out of their refrigerator. The end of Chapter 36 shows the same, discouraging obsessions still linger within Wavey as well. Even after a lovely day with Quoyle in St. John's, she still lies in bed with him commenting that this was the same hotel she came on her honeymoon.

The color images in Chapter 36 reflect the ambivalence of Wavey's and Quoyle's feelings. As they set out driving, the early morning is the color of "salmon fillets," the sky is a soft green, and inside the car, gold and maroon. The bright colors parallel Wavey's bright, colorful home, and symbolize the possibility of Quoyle being with her. Then, all of a sudden, the day turns plain black and white, symbolizing the lack of color or lack of passion in Quoyle's life.

Quoyle's fear and malice toward Nolan has grown into pity and forgiveness. His choice to take food to his cousin at Christmastime and then visit him at the asylum shows not only that Quoyle has forgiven Nolan's threats, but that Quoyle has forgiven all the sins of his ancestors and family. He tells Nolan, "It's all in the past. Don't blame yourself." This quote suggests that Quoyle is letting go of his familial past and his own personal past. Quoyle, who has always been the first to call himself a failure, now says out loud "don't blame yourself." The question of who might be the object of this advice (is Quoyle really talking to his cousin, or talking to himself?) alludes back to the meeting between the cousins in Chapter 33 when Quoyle recognizes himself in the face Nolan. Their identities are ambiguously similar; Quoyle's advice to his cousin may therefore be seen as advice to himself as well.

More Help

Previous Next
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

3 out of 7 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"

See all 4 readers' notes   →

Follow Us