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The Shipping News

Annie Proulx

Chapters 37–39

Chapters 34–36

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Chapter 37: Slingstones

Bunny gets in trouble at school for pushing a teacher. As it turns out, the teacher had been scolding and mocking Herry for having to go to the bathroom. The aunt comes up from St. John, and she, Quoyle, and Bunny storm the principal together to stand up for Bunny. Wavey has a special relationship to Bunny after this incident. One day, they all go down to Alvin Yark's where Quoyle helps him on the boat. Alvin asks Quoyle when he is going to "do the deed," referring to Wavey. Alvin then tells Quoyle that Wavey's husband Herold was a hurtful womanizer.

In March, seal hunting begins. Jack Buggit goes out hunting. One day Wavey brings Quoyle a seal flipper pie, as an excuse to spend the night with him. Wavey and Quoyle talk about their old lovers, exchange their hurtful stories. Seal season turns to herring season, and Jack makes the switch. Wavey and Quoyle cook herring by the shore while their children play. Bunny finds a dead bird and Herry calls Quoyle "Dad."

Herring fishing turns to lobster fishing, and Jack gets his slingstones (anchors for the lobster pots) ready. Dennis could fish for lobster if Jack would turn7 over his license to him; Jack does not want him to get it. Meanwhile, Quoyle gets ready to welcome the aunt back to Killick-Claw.

Chapter 38: The Sled Dog Driver's Dream

Alvin and Quoyle are finishing the boat when Alvin notices that there is bad weather coming in. Later, all of Quoyle's friends come over welcome the aunt back (Quoyle and his family are living in the house of the Burke's, who have moved to Florida). Bunny happily shows Quoyle the present that Wavey has given her—a white husky puppy. Quoyle comes downstairs and kisses Wavey in front of everyone.

The terrible storm comes in, and Bunny has a nightmare that the family house came undone from the rock and collapsed. A few days later, Quoyle realizes that the family house is gone, disappeared into the sea. The aunt grieves over the loss, and asks what happened to the outhouse. Quoyle tells her he knows about the sexual abuse she suffered; the aunt cries for a minute, then straightens up and starts making plans again.

Chapter 39: Shining Hubcaps

Finally, Quoyle's boat is finished. Meanwhile, Dennis cannot find work, and is talking about moving his family up to Toronto. One night, Quoyle takes a bath, looks at himself naked in the mirror and does not find himself detestable. That night, Dennis calls to tell Quoyle that Jack had not returned from his fishing trip; they finally find him, drowned. Jack had caught his foot on the line of a slingstone, and been pulled overboard. Quoyle starts planning a special issue of the newspaper as a memorial for Jack.

Wavey convinces Quoyle to let Bunny go to the wake, to show Bunny what it means to be dead. At the wake, with Dennis and Mrs. Buggit staring over the body, Jack begins to cough. Bunny shouts, "he woke up!" Quoyle and Dennis follow the ambulance to the hospital and Dennis exclaims that now his dad can give him his lobster license. Meanwhile, Wavey tries to explain to Bunny that Petal will never wake up, even though Jack did. They go back to look at the dead bird, and finding only a feather, Bunny assumes it flew away.

Jack begins to recover from pneumonia, and Quoyle marries Wavey. He begins to "[experience] moments in all colors" and believe that "love sometimes occurs without pain or misery."

Analysis

The shared knowledge of abusive old lovers creates a turning point in Wavey and Quoyle's relationship. The charm of the seal flipper pie is a detail that adds an element of local color to this love affair. Only in Newfoundland could you share kisses that tasted like seal flipper. Wavey's and Quoyle's parallel experiences lead them closer to each other. It seems as if neither has ever spoken the cruelties of their old lovers out loud. When they do, they each understand how the other came to be stuck loving such a lousy partner. They are soul mates in the sense that they each have felt the same masochistic longing for someone else, and this longing in a way guides them toward one another. The image of Herold and Petal running through "rat holes" of their memories suggests that these old lovers are finally being taken off their pedestals and starting to be recognized for the worthless rodents they are.

Bunny's character develops more fully by the end of the novel. As the first of the next generation, her strong, normative personality symbolizes Quoyle's success in overcoming his family's terrible history. Bunny is neither the object of cruelty, nor is she the perpetrator. Quoyle's offer of forgiveness to his cousin, his knowledge of the aunt's secret, and the destruction of the house on the point all lead up to this exoneration. Bunny's acceptance of the white dog suggests that her anxiety has been allayed, in part because of the way that Wavey requires Bunny to face her fears. The real white dog seems to symbolize the end of anxiety regarding the Quoyle's ancestry. Bunny's contemplation of death shows that she is still recovering from Petal's loss. One may wonder if perhaps Wavey's counseling is as much for Wavey's own good as it is for Bunny's. They are all still trying to understand the permanency of death.

The box of chocolates that Quoyle imagines as potential love experiences shows Quoyle's potential to feel beyond misery. Quoyle does not know how to feel love without pain, mostly because he has never been offered it as such. The chocolates provide a new way of conceiving love, a new center that feels gentle and warm instead of painful. The colors that Quoyle now begins to see function the same way symbolically. He is not trying to retrieve an old color (or chocolate) that he knew before, but rather, convince himself that other colors exist.

The subplot with Dennis and Beety is reminiscent of Partridge's goodbye at the beginning of the book. Quoyle responds with the same sadness and fear, the same sense of losing a home he has come to love. This development comes close to the end of the book, while Partridge's move came close to the beginning. This time, however, the plot gets down a different way, without Quoyle having to say another good-bye. The idea of a departure is especially anxiety inducing at this point, when, as Quoyle says, those who leave get caught up in a bigger life, and never come back. Dennis and Beety symbolically choose the old way of life by staying behind in Newfoundland. The discouragement that Dennis projects before Jack's accident turns to great enthusiasm upon getting to take over the lobster license; part of the local humor of this resurrection is idea that fishing is the first thing on Dennis's mind when his dad comes back to life.

The situation with Jack alludes back to the title and introduction of Chapter 31: Sometimes You Just Lose It. The introduction tells that lanyards are used to tie down any loose objects on board so as not to lose them overboard. Indeed, Jack (almost) loses his life because of a loose knife that falls out of his pocket. Chapter 37: Slingstones also foreshadows Jack's accident by introducing the chapter with an explanation of the slingstone hitch (the knot on the lobster net anchors). The reader should also recall that Jack has been associated throughout the book with an uncanny sense about the sea. If anyone were to exhibit super-human powers at sea, it would be Jack.

Jack's wakeup creates a surprise ending that undermines the serious tone surrounding death and good-byes. The reader almost feels tricked by the author, after Quoyle and Wavey have been working so hard to understand the deaths of their loved one, and Wavey is trying to teach Bunny, too, about death. It almost seems as if the author intervenes, telling the reader and all the characters that death is not real after all. The lesson Bunny learns is that people wake up, and dead birds fly away. The novel ends in this moment of imaginative happiness, but the happiness is not so much pure joy as it is the absence of suffering. Jack is not dead. Quoyle does not feel pain. Quoyle's hubcaps shine, and reflect more colors than black and white alone.

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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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