The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 16-18 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 620

Quoyle enjoys going over to the home of Dennis (the carpenter) and his wife, Beety. Quoyle’s children spend a lot of time there, playing with Dennis’s children. Beety is a good cook and always offers home-cooked food when Quoyle stops by to pick up Bunny and Sunshine.

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While there, Dennis tells Quoyle more about his father, Jack Buggit, the owner of the newspaper. Dennis claims his father has the gift: his father is very intuitive, aware of things other people are not. One night while Dennis’s older brother, Jesson, was out at sea, Jack stood up at the dinner table and exclaimed that Jesson was dead. There had been no news of the loss. Jack only sensed it, and it turned out to be true. Dennis is still angry, though, that his father is so against his becoming a fisherman.

The next day at the newspaper office, Quoyle decides on his own to not merely record the statistics of which boat has come in and which has departed for his “Shipping News” column. Beside the names of the ships, Quoyle writes a human interest story about the Tough Baby and the Melvilles, who own it. He relates the story about the damages the Tough Baby caused in Maine during the hurricane.

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When Tert Card reads the story Quoyle has written, he is upset. He is also nervous about what Jack Buggit is going to say. No one has ever written a story without Jack’s prior approval. This makes Quoyle a little nervous too, though he enjoyed writing the piece. When Jack arrives at the office, he slams the door behind him, so everyone thinks he is angry. When Jack starts speaking, Quoyle immediately begins making excuses for why he wrote the story and all but promises to never write another story on his own. However, Jack got several calls at home about the story. People loved the story, and it inspired a group of people to go down to the docks to look at the boat. Jack tells Quoyle to keep it up. He should write a human interest story at the end of every “Shipping News” column. Furthermore, Jack says he is going to order a computer for Quoyle so he will not have to continue using an old typewriter. Quoyle comments to himself that this is the first time in his life anyone has told him he actually did something right.

The next time Quoyle sees Wavey on the road and offers her a ride, she asks if they could make it regular. She needs to go to the library every Tuesday and Friday and asks if he could take her. When the next Friday comes around, Quoyle goes out of his way to look nice. He even goes into the library with Wavey, but he is embarrassed when he clumsily knocks several books off the shelves. Wavey’s son is named Herry. Wavey tells Quoyle that she has organized a group of mothers who have children with Down’s syndrome. She has helped create special classes that help the parents and the afflicted children deal with their special needs.

After he goes home, Quoyle takes his boat out and buys lobsters. When he brings them home, he finds that Agnis has invited Dawn to dinner. During dinner, Dawn makes a comment about how awful it is that the Melvilles have left the island without paying Agnis for her work. Agnis made several upholstery covers for their boat. The day after she installed them, the boat was gone. Agnis excuses the Melvilles and assumes they will return. She imagines that an emergency must have come up and they had to leave without notifying anyone.

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Chapters 19-21 Summary