The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 32-33 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 733

It is the night of Nutbeem’s going away party. He has invited more than fifty people and is holding the party in his small trailer. Quoyle helps Nutbeem set up the food and drinks. He also takes a tour of Nutbeem’s place. He is considering living there after Nutbeem moves out, but he changes his mind upon seeing how small it is.

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When they go into the bathroom, Quoyle notices a big, yellow barrel in the shower stall and asks about it. Nutbeem explains it is the closest thing to a tub he could fit inside the trailer. He takes baths in it. Later, when they are looking for a container big enough to hold thirty bags’ worth of potato chips, Nutbeem suggests they use the yellow barrel coated with soap scum. So Quoyle opens all the bags and pours the chips in.

Nutbeem has invited only men to the party. After they have each consumed many beers, they begin to talk about how to stop Nutbeem from leaving. Someone suggests they destroy his boat. In a drunken fit, men pick up hammers and chain saws and head down to the dock, where they take the boat apart. The boat sinks.

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The next day, Quoyle has the worst hangover of his life. Beety tells him that Dennis and a group of other men who had been at the party are trying to salvage Nutbeem’s boat. They were hoping to bring in some heavy equipment to raise it. Quoyle has no memory of the destruction of Nutbeem’s boat or much else about the party, except that he decided the trailer was no place for him and his daughters to live. Beety also tells Quoyle that there is a house for rent. The Burkes own it, and they have moved to Florida. They wanted to sell the house but no one wanted to buy it. Beety says it is a big, clean house—the perfect place for Quoyle.

Quoyle goes out to the old house on the cove to retrieve some clothes. While he is there, he concludes that there is something about the house he does not like. It feels like it wants to suffocate him. He also thinks the house, with its need to be tied to ground, does not belong there. He questions if his father’s family should have moved it off Gaze Island. When Quoyle goes inside, he finds knotted strings at the door of each room. He knows they were put there by the old man he and Agnis have glimpsed. Sometimes Quoyle had caught the man snooping around the yard in the middle of the night. The man is the cousin Agnis does not want to claim. The knotted strings, Quoyle has learned, are supposed to represent a type of ancient curse. The old man obviously wants Quoyle and his family out of the house. Quoyle decides to climb down to the old man’s hut along the shore and confront him.

Quoyle knocks on the door but the man does not answer. So Quoyle opens the door and walks in. This is the first time that Quoyle has seen the man up close. The man is very old and not in very good physical shape. He looks hungry and in need a bath. Even still, Quoyle can see the family resemblance. The man has his aunt’s unruly hair and his father’s thin lips. Quoyle pulls out the knotted strings the man had left inside his house and drops them to the floor. He tells the man that he does not need to do this. The man is not totally rational. He tells Quoyle that it is too late; the curses have been laid and cannot not be undone.

Back in Killick-Claw, Quoyle goes over to Nutbeem’s trailer. The men who have gathered there announce that the boat is gone. They tried to hoist it up, but it cracked in two and floated away. Nutbeem is not depressed. He claims he would not have made it out anyway. The ice would have claimed him. Instead, he is flying to South America. Then Nutbeem sadly reports that his landlord has sworn never to rent to another newspaperman. The trailer is a mess. Nutbeem apologizes to Quoyle because he thinks Quoyle still wants his trailer. Quoyle tells him not to worry about it.

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Chapters 29-31 Summary

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Chapters 36-37 Summary