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The Shipping News

Annie Proulx

Chapters 13–15

Chapters 10–12

Chapters 16–18

Summary

Chapter 13: The Dutch Cringle

Diddy Shovel calls up Quoyle to tell him that a leisure boat built for Hitler is in the harbor, and Quoyle should come take a look. Quoyle takes Billy Pretty with him. On the way, they pass the same woman Quoyle has spotted a number of times before. Billy tells him her name is Wavey Prowse, and they give her and her son a ride.

At the harbor, Bayonet Melville, the owner of Tough Baby manages to stop arguing with his wife Silver long enough to give them a tour of his boat. He brags of its indestructibility and explains its Dutch origins and design. He is especially proud of the ornate carving. All the while, Silver yells at him to tell the story of Hurricane Bob. According to Bayonet's story, Tough Baby smashed in seventeen boats and twelve beautiful beach houses during the hurricane, without incurring any damage at all. Both the owner and his wife seem to have bruises and have been drinking. Bayonet explains that he and his wife have come to have the yacht upholstered by one Agnis Hamm.

Chapter 14: Wavey

At the house, the aunt explains to Quoyle that she has set up her yacht upholstery business, having hired two other women to help her, Mavis Bangs and Dawn Budgel. The aunt tells Quoyle that she used to have a "significant other" named Warren, thinking to herself that Quoyle does not need to know it was Irene Warren. The two women had lived on a houseboat together, and the aunt had taken a course in leather upholstery at Irene Warren's suggestion. The aunt went away to take her course, and planned out how she would start her own business. When she returned home, Irene Warren was dying of cancer. As soon as she died, the aunt bought her dog Warren and started the upholstery business.

During the aunt's story, Bunny grows extremely frightened after believing she saw a white dog. Quoyle plays with his daughters, helping them build play castle.

Quoyle takes a break from work one day and finds Wavey, the tall woman, out walking. He gives her a ride to her son's school, where she often goes at noontime. Both notice the others' gold band on their ring fingers. Quoyle finds himself most enchanted by her tall presence and the way she walks.

Chapter 15: The Upholstery Shop

Quoyle visits the aunt's upholstery shop and meets the aunt's assistants, one of whom is working on the leather for the Melville's yacht. The aunt and Quoyle go out to Skipper Will's for lunch, and Quoyle asks her about Bunny. He worries that she keeps imagining a white dog, and she has recurring nightmares and a terrible temper. The aunt attributes Bunny's behavior to a traumatic last few months, and tells Quoyle that she just has not yet learned to "disguise [her] differentness." Still, the narrator mentions that Guy had done something—the reader does not yet know what—for the first time when the aunt was Bunny's age; the aunt is not necessarily trustworthy when it comes to evaluating children's emotional stress.

Analysis

These chapters invoke foreshadowing in order to create suspense and help move the plot forward. The reader should recognize a few ominous clues that crop up aboard the Tough Baby. First of all, the ship was supposedly made for Hitler, a fact that no one seems to be forgetting any time soon. Bayonet and Silver Melville are not only in the midst of a vicious shouting match, but both seem to have conspicuous bruises on their skin, as if they have been physically fighting. Also, both take a kind of sick pleasure in telling the history of the yacht's amazing destructive capabilities. A careful reader will notice the connection between Silver's name, and the fact that Petal Bear is often associated with the color silver.

Chapter 14 provides an occasion for the aunt to tell her own history. The aunt, happy to bore Quoyle with the details of the projects she worked on in upholstery school, deliberately leaves out the fact that her "significant other" was a woman. Curiously, this is perhaps the only detail of the aunt's life that we know, but Quoyle does not. The aunt appears only as a businesswoman, an artisan in the upholstery trade, but not as a lover or sexual partner. Indeed, the aunt does not seem to feel at all burdened by the lack of a confession. She very quickly dismisses her sexuality as something Quoyle could not understand, and moves on; Proulx disallows the sex of the aunt's partner to disrupt the story's priorities.

There seems to be no personal gain for the aunt in "coming out" as a lesbian, but she instead "comes out" as a businesswoman. Quoyle had no idea until he boarded the Melville's ship that the aunt was such an adept upholsterer. This chapter helps establish the aunt's strong character again. She has lost a loved one, also, but it did not stop her from starting her own upholstery business. Now, relocated to Newfoundland and in her sixties, she has successfully started it again.

Wavey's brief appearance in Chapter 14 is curious, considering that the chapter is named for her (and not the aunt). Perhaps this irony draws attention to the way each woman plays a different role in Quoyle's life. As Quoyle begins to be haunted less by Petal, he no longer needs the aunt's strength so desperately; he seems to be opening up a space in his life for a new love-interest. His attraction to Wavey's posture and gait suggests that he sees her for her grace rather than for her sexual potential.

There is something ominous about the conversation Quoyle and the aunt have concerning Bunny. The aunt seems to be hiding something, as she looks at Quoyle cautiously, as if she were examining "a new kind of leather she might buy." This simile suggests she may be sizing up his potential, the chances he will continue to dwell on this idea. The aunt goes on to dismiss all of his worries so emphatically that one wonders if the aunt knows information she is not sharing. Indeed, at the end of the chapter, the narrator mentions Guy, Quoyle's father in a threatening way. He apparently did something when the aunt (or perhaps another "she"—the pronoun's referent is unclear) was Bunny's age. The tone and word choice suggests that there may have been an incident of sexual abuse.

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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

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"

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