The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 34-35 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 627

Quoyle joins Tert Card after work for a drink at a rundown bar. Tert still feels upset about the weather; he is tired of the cold. He tells Quoyle about past winters to pass the time as they drink. He talks about windstorms that caused fifty-foot waves. They were so big, Tert says, it felt like the bottom of the ocean was being pulled up into the air. Then he says he is leaving his job at the newspaper. He has had enough of Killick-Claw. He is going to St. John’s to work on a newsletter for an oil company. He hopes to be transferred to the States one day, maybe to Texas. Tert says he is willing to bet that Quoyle will be the next person to leave. Then he tells Quoyle that Billy Pretty will probably take over Tert’s job, leaving Quoyle to cover the Home page.

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As fall is coming to an end and pushing into winter, Quoyle is amazed by the surge of creativity in everyone. The people around him are constantly working with their hands—knitting, baking, or painting pictures. Bunny, his daughter, tells him she will be in a school pageant. Quoyle does not enjoy the holiday season and is not looking forward to going to the performance. But once he is in the auditorium, he is surprised by the sense of camaraderie he experiences from the local townspeople, and he enjoys himself. Part of his surprise comes from the appearance and performance not only of school children but also some of the adults he has come to know. For instance, he sees Benny Fudge, the man who led the assault on Nutbeem’s boat; he sings and does a little dance at the end. A seventy-year-old woman does a pantomime, pretending she is a chicken protecting an egg. It seemed like it might be very silly but Quoyle laughs at the skit. Wavey’s Herry does a dance while Wavey plays the accordion. Finally, the show stopper is Beety, who performs a skit that makes gentle fun of Billy Pretty.

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For Christmas, Quoyle gives Wavey a glass teapot and a colorful silk scarf. Wavey presents Quoyle with a sweater she has knitted for him. The act of gift giving makes Quoyle remember the only present his dead wife, Petal, ever gave him. After Quoyle had given Petal all her gifts, she confessed she had not thought to buy anything for him. Then she went to the refrigerator and pulled out two eggs. She held one in each hand and presented them to Quoyle. It was the closest Quoyle would ever get to receiving a gift from Petal. He rationalizes how loving this thought was. Petal, who was not used to giving anything, had actually given him something. Quoyle’s interpretations of Petal continue to be very unrealistic, as if he were undeserving of love. For this reason, even though his relationship with Wavey is growing stronger and deeper, he continues to push her away emotionally. He places his unreliable memories of Petal between himself and Wavey like a safety shield.

A few days later, Dennis suggests that he and Quoyle go out to check on Quoyle’s relative who lives in a hut close to the old Quoyle house on the bay. They discover he is almost starved to death and so filthy that Quoyle has to go outside and puke. Dennis says it is time to do something about the old man; he obviously can no longer care for himself. Quoyle has no idea how to help the man, but Dennis says either Beety or Wavey will help him. When Quoyle says, “some women,” as a compliment, Dennis answers, “You don’t know the half of it.”

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Chapters 38-39 Summary