Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog

The Shipping News

Annie Proulx

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat's blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, and that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.

These lines come at the very end of the novel, and lift the narrative into a final, imaginative state that belies the gloom and misery of Quoyle's old life. The list of phenomena that makes up this paragraph frame the last sentence in an interesting way. The reversal of natural processes (a dead bird coming to life, cold fire, forest in the ocean) is such a far-fetched idea that these sentences can only be considered in a metaphoric, imaginative way. The last sentence, though—the idea of love without pain— in the context of fantasy, seems less unlikely. And that seems to be all that the book needs to achieve—"less unlikely"—a state of double negative. The novel ends with the hope of love "without pain or misery." Mrs. Buggit has been spared a tragedy (Jack is "not dead") and Quoyle has been granted a woman who is not hurtful. Still, the lofty, imaginative tone gives one a sense of whimsy in a life that has been anything but whimsical. The bit of wind inside the knot provides perhaps the most optimistic image, suggesting that Quoyle is undoing himself from a place of binding suffering.