The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Chapters 4-6 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 588

Agnis talks Quoyle into moving to Newfoundland because he has nothing to hold him in Mockingburgh, New York, where he currently lives. Quoyle thinks about this for a few days and then agrees. He calls Partridge, who has moved to California, and asks if he has any newspaper contacts in Newfoundland. Surprisingly, he does. Partridge gives him the name Tertius Card, who is editor of the small newspaper, Shipping News, in Killick-Claw, Newfoundland. Card is looking for someone with a shipping background. Quoyle tells Partridge that his grandfather was a sealer; the prospects look good.

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Agnis tells Quoyle about the family home that might still be standing near Quoyle Bay on the island. It has been more than forty years since any family member has seen it, and Newfoundland is known for its winter windstorms, but the house may give them some place to stay for free. Then Quoyle finds out that an insurance company owes him $30,000 plus another $20,000 owed to his daughters. They pack up and drive from New York to Nova Scotia and then to Prince Edward Island, where they catch a ferry.

Quoyle gets seasick on the boat as they move over rough seas, but they make it. Then they have more driving to do. The distance is not far but the trip takes a long time because the roads are so bad. The last twenty-eight miles must be traversed without roads once they get out into the country. Quoyle insists that they stop and camp out in the car after the sun goes down.

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The next day, they are surprised when they come upon a good gravel road out in the middle of nowhere. The road leads them to a large, cement building that has been abandoned. They have no idea what might have once been inside, and there are no signs telling them what the building might have been used for. As they stand in front of it, the fog lifts, and they see the old family house. It is still standing, and it is not far away on the edge of the bay.

The homestead stands on rock and is bolted down with cables that stretch from the roof to the ground. Agnis remembers that the house used to sway in the strong storms before they tied it down. She was a child when the family left. There are some holes in the roof and windowpanes are broken, but they believe they might be able to make the house livable without too much trouble.

On further inspection, Quoyle states that they cannot live in the house. There has been too much damage and that requires too many repairs. Agnis thinks they could fix it, but she admits it would be a hard life. Quoyle adds that, with the poor roads, the house is too far from Killick-Claw, where he probably will be working. Agnis says if Quoyle got a boat he could get to work faster; most of the old timers traveled around the island that way. But Quoyle is afraid of the winter storms. Agnis suggests that he could use a snowmobile in the winter, but Quoyle is not convinced.

While Quoyle and Agnis make a list of repairs that must be made, it begins to snow. When Quoyle questions how it could snow in May, Agnis tells him that in Newfoundland there could be a snowstorm in any month of the year. This snowstorm lasts several days. They wait it out in a rickety motel—at least it is warm.

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Chapters 1-3 Summary


Chapters 7-9 Summary