The Shipping News

Summary

Chapters 34–36

Summary Chapters 34–36

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.