Mavis Bangs is giving Dawn Budgel her take on Agnis. Quoyle has just found Bayonet Melville's head, and Mavis has noticed that Agnis has acted with "manly heart," although the event shocked and traumatized Quoyle. Meanwhile, Dawn is paying no attention at all, but it diligently writing one job inquiry letter after another. Mavis goes on to talk about Mrs. Buggit, Jack's wife, who Mavis also regards as a strong woman. Mavis wonders out loud if Silver Melville killed her husband; Quoyle, after all, said they fought like "dogs and cats." Mavis then goes off about a ritual she and her peers practiced in their girlhood. They would sew a mat, and then fold up a cat in it. When the cat was let loose, the girl it went to was the next to get married. Mavis talks about her husbands, while Dawn keeps typing.
Quoyle is driving Wavey and Herry home, when he spots an old fisherman looking at him as if he knew Quoyle and holding a netting needle. Meanwhile, Herry notices a new wooden dog in his grandfather's house. Quoyle then meets Ken, Wavey's brother, who seems pleased to meet him.
As much as Quoyle works on the family house, it still seems sadly dilapidated. The aunt seems a little bit aloof lately, not so intent on fixing up the house. Quoyle is getting ready to prepare dinner, and is going out to find some wild parsley when the aunt notices a man in the road. When Quoyle looks, he sees only the stranger's footprints. Quoyle guesses it is Nolan, their kinsman who wants to claim the old family house. That night, Quoyle is awakened by a flashlight beam, most likely another sign of the kinsman. He suggests to the aunt that they go look up Nolan, but the aunt does not want to go.
Bunny goes to school for the first time, and Quoyle is relieved that she does not experience the same misery at school that he did. Around the same time, Quoyle and his daughters, the aunt, and Wavey and Herry all go berry picking together. Quoyle and Wavey find a way to steal off alone together. They watch an iceberg tip over on its side, plunging into the water. While Wavey stands up on a rock, Quoyle grabs her by the ankles affectionately. Imagining what might happen, Wavey avoids any intimacy by talking about her dead husband lost at sea. Her husband was on an oil rig that was not equipped with proper safety precautions. After she tells Quoyle the story, she feels her grief ease a little bit, and turns to Quoyle again. They fall to the ground in each other's arms, but when Wavey hears the sea, she thinks again of her dead husband. She gets up and runs away. Quoyle instead of feeling heartbroken, has a kind of epiphany, feels himself and his lifetime small against the great mass of sea and time.
Chapter 23 builds suspense around Quoyle's kinsman. By this time, Quoyle and his daughters have received numerous threats in the form of knotted twine. The cousin seems to also just be lurking around the area, as if to scare Quoyle more than to claim anything as his own. Quoyle's and the aunt's reactions to these developments show the way their characters are digressing: while Quoyle is ready to face his family and his past, the aunt seems less sure.
The knots in the introduction to Chapter 24 symbolize the interactions between Quoyle and Wavey that follow. It describes two knots that many people confuse; although they are similar, one knot is tied around another object, and the other is tied around itself. The knots symbolically represent the way that some people tie their lives with someone else, while some rely on the strength of their own self. Both Quoyle and Wavey are confused by their grief over their lost loved- ones. Wavey literally runs away in confusion, and Quoyle consistently wonders how he will pry himself from his attachment to Petal.
The images of the iceberg in Chapter 24 foreshadow the interaction that then takes place between Quoyle and Wavey. The iceberg has two towers that tilt until the imbalance causes the ice to fall under water. Proulx describes the one tower as "[rearing] over [the other] like a lover." They two towers come together before plunging under, causing a spray of "displaced water." The simile that compares the tower to a lover is juxtaposed with the descriptions of Quoyle overtaking Wavey. They fall to the ground like the two parts of the iceberg falls underwater; they also both have old griefs that must be "displaced" before they can relate romantically to one another. The displaced water that sprays up when the iceberg goes down could symbolize the old lovers—Quoyle's Petal and Wavey's Herold.
Wavey's story of her husband's death adds another element to the theme of social and economic change in the novel. The oilrig crash that caused Herold's death could have been prevented had the ship been properly designed and prepared for poor conditions. With the absence of governmental regulations, the rig failed at the slightest provocation. This event symbolizes the inherent
Quoyle's epiphany occurs when he becomes suddenly aware of the smallness of one human being set against the great vastness of humankind, social change, earth, sea, and time. Seeing himself as such a small entity in part of a grander, greater system of life seems to bring Quoyle great comfort. For someone like Quoyle who has experienced great pain, the passing of time feels extraordinarily healing. Time is Quoyle's way out—time will "rinse" his ancestors of their evil, just as time will allow him to heal. Quoyle also feels optimistic about his future with Wavey, as he imagines them growing old together. In general, this moment offers Quoyle a sense of great clarity about his place in time and space.