The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 13-15 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 610

A new boat sails into town, and everyone is talking about it. Although it is raining hard outside, Quoyle heads out to the dock to write a story about it. The boat is said to have once belonged to Hitler. Billy Pretty asks if he can go with Quoyle. On their way to the dock, Pretty tells Quoyle to stop and pick up a woman and her son walking in the rain along the side of the road. Quoyle has seen this woman several times and has become curious about her, so he is glad to meet her. The woman’s name is Wavey Prowse and she is a young widow. Her son has Down’s syndrome, which many of the islanders blame on the fright Wavey experienced when her husband was lost at sea during her pregnancy. Quoyle drops Wavey off at her house.

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The boat they go to see is built on the base of a barge and is almost indestructible. The boat’s owner, Bayonet Melville, has named it Tough Baby. His wife, Silver, pesters him to tell Quoyle and Pretty about Hurricane Bob, which hit Maine while they were docked there, and the destruction their boat caused. When Melville tells the story, Quoyle hears the pride in the man’s voice. The boat came loose in the winds and destroyed several yachts. Then it was pushed to shore so hard that it rammed into a row of beach houses and tore them apart.

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When Quoyle asks what the Melvilles are doing in Newfoundland, Melville tells them they came looking for an upholsterer who once did some work for them when they were moored on Long Island, New York. They are speaking about Quoyle’s Aunt Agnis.

Later that day, Quoyle questions Agnis about her business. He did not know she specialized in making covers for couches, chairs, and other boat furniture. Agnis tells her nephew about some of her history. She had a woman friend, Warren (after whom she named her dog), who used to live with her. Warren encouraged Agnis to go to a special school for upholstery training. When Agnis returned successful, Warren told her she had been diagnosed with cancer. She died a few months later. Warren never knew how successful Agnis would become with her own business. Then Agnis takes Quoyle to her new shop and introduces her two employees. One is a young woman named Dawn. Agnis would like for Quoyle to take an interest in Dawn, but on the way home, Quoyle looks for Wavey. When he finds her, he offers her a ride. They do not exchange many words, but the way they look at one another demonstrates that each is attracted to the other. Again the encounter is brief, but Quoyle feels encouraged.

At dinner, Quoyle discloses to his aunt that he is worried about his older daughter, Bunny. She has many nightmares, but she also imagines she sees things during the day that are not there. She is often frightened by images of a mad-looking dog, but no one else ever sees this dog. Quoyle asks if Agnis thinks Bunny is all right. Agnis does not feel as concerned as Quoyle does. She suggests that maybe Bunny is a sensitive child who does see things no one else can. Quoyle is concerned that all the tragedy Bunny has experienced with her mother’s death might have damaged her psychologically. Agnis tells Quoyle to give it time. Agnis tends to see Bunny as gifted; Quoyle is too much of a pragmatist to believe in such things as people having the ability to see things no one else can.

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Chapters 16-18 Summary