The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 36-37 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 994

Billy Pretty has decided that he does not want to be Managing Editor for the newspaper, so Jack Buggit gives the job to Quoyle. Quoyle feels pleased with himself and sends the masthead of the paper to his friend, Partridge, back in the States. A while later, Partridge calls, but it is not just to congratulate Quoyle. Partridge tells Quoyle that there are riots where he lives. People are going crazy; it is not safe. His wife was driving her truck and had to duck a bullet that shattered her windshield. Quoyle reflects on where he lives. He thinks maybe having to deal with severe winters in Newfoundland may not be such a big challenge.

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Quoyle leaves the newspaper office when he sees Jack’s boat come in. Jack wants to meet with Quoyle and suggests that they do so on the boat. He tells Quoyle they might as well be doing something with their hands while they talk, so Quoyle helps Jack scale the fish he has caught. Quoyle tells Jack he wants to drop some of the fake ads in the paper. Quoyle has discovered that Jack made up ads to impress his readers. But Quoyle wants to make the newspaper more legitimate with more serious stories. Quoyle wants his readers to be better informed about what is happening with the fishing industry and other important social issues that affect their lives. Jack agrees to Quoyle’s plan.

In February, Quoyle receives papers from a medical institution in St. John’s. They are for the old man at the cove, Agnis’s cousin. Someone in the family has to sign the papers so the institution can help the man. The reports state that the old man is suffering from delusion, schizophrenia, and dementia. Quoyle decides to go to St. John’s to see the man. He asks Wavey if she will go with him and says they can go out to a fancy restaurant and see a movie. Wavey is happy Quoyle invited her.

While in the city, Wavey shops for some clothes and special gifts for the children while Quoyle goes to the medical institution to see his old relative. When he sits down and talks to the man, Quoyle cannot believe how lucid his relative is. The man even tells him that he is only pretending to be crazy so he can remain there. He is being well cared for. He is wearing clean clothes and does not have to worry about finding food. So Quoyle leaves believing that his cousin is doing well. Quoyle even believes that his cousin is so rational that maybe he is in the wrong place. Quoyle is determined to seek out a nursing home rather than have his cousin committed to an asylum.

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In the evening, Quoyle focuses on Wavey. They enjoy a good meal and take in a movie. Later they check into a hotel room and make love for the first time. Like Quoyle, Wavey uses her dead husband as a shield so she does not have to admit to her feelings for Quoyle. As they lay in bed, she tells Quoyle that she and her husband came to this same hotel on their honeymoon. Quoyle feels like both his dead wife and Wavey’s dead husband are in the bed with them.

In the moring, news reaches Quoyle that his cousin has attacked the staff of nurses and doctors with a piece of broken glass. Before he leaves St. John’s, Quoyle signs the papers committing him.

Back in Killick-Claw, Quoyle receives a message from Bunny’s school principal. The woman needs to meet with Quoyle as soon as possible. Bunny has pushed a teacher and must be disciplined. Quoyle’s worries about his daughter surface again. He wonders why she would do such a thing. Bunny will not tell Quoyle anything about her reasoning behind the incident. The principal decides that Bunny must be suspended.

A few days later, Quoyle learns what happened. At the mention of the teacher’s name, Beety immediately responds with suspicion. Beety believes that Bunny probably had a reason for the pushing. As it turns out, Bunny did. Mrs. Lumbull had no tolerance for Herry, Wavey’s son, and made the boy stand in line for a long period of time. Herry tried to tell the teacher he had to go to the bathroom, but Mrs. Lumbull did not have the patience nor the understanding to comprehend Herry’s mumbled speech. In the end, Herry wet himself and was terribly embarrassed. Then Bunny came to his defense and pushed the teacher. When Quoyle learns of this story, he settles the situation with the principal. With an apology to Mrs. Lumbull, Bunny is allowed back in school.

When Quoyle visits Wavey’s uncle to see the progress on the boat he is making, Yark hints that maybe it is time for Quoyle to commit to Wavey. He asks Quoyle what is holding him back. Yark wants to know if it is Herry. Quoyle tells Yark it has nothing to do with Wavey’s child but rather with Wavey’s dead husband, whom she seems to still love. At this, Yark shouts at Quoyle, telling him how wrong he is. Wavey’s husband was a womanizer and he also abused Wavey. While Wavey’s husband was still alive, the community joked that he was the father of a high number of the new babies.

After considering this news, Quoyle tells Wavey how Petal used to bring her boyfriends home with her. Wavey is shocked, but this announcement opens her up. She confesses that her husband used to come home smelling of other women. By facing their true emotions about their dead spouses rather than imagining there was more depth to their relationships, Quoyle and Wavey both put their guards down and accept that maybe they are entitled to some real love. From then on, their relationship blossoms.

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Chapters 32-33 Summary


Chapters 38-39 Summary