Archive for the ‘Annie Proulx: The Shipping News’ Category

Annie Proulx: The Shipping News

January 10, 2010


The story starts with the boyhood of the main protagonist Quoyle. He is a fat and ugly boy with a giant chin. His father sees in Quoyle the shame of the family. For him his son is no-good who can’t swim and fails already in speaking clearly, to sit up straight, to get up in the morning, in attitude, ambition and ability. But this made him strong and he isn’t disappointed when he wrote his first newspaper article and his boss criticizes him for the bad writing. His brother is also very cruel to him and gives him very unkind names. Quoyle always had the idea that he might have been given to the wrong family.

Because of his bad looking, Quoyle is very shy and doesn’t know how to behave with women. So his first love Petal exploits him. She always does party and amuses with other men while he is at home doing the household and looking to their children Bunny and Sunshine.

Then one day his everyday life seems to fall all apart. First Quoyle gets the message from his father on an answering machine that his parents will commit suicide because both were ill. He had liver cancer and his mother a tumor in her brain. Then his boss fires him because of financial slump and in the meantime his wife Petal is packing her clothes and went off with the children. When Quoyle comes at home he is really irritated that everyone is gone. He calls the police to find at least his children because Petal never worried about them. At the evening his aunt Agnis visited him to look after him because of the parental dead and also to get the ash of her brother. At the next day, the police found his wife and children. His wife was found dead with her lover. They had a car accident. Luckily, the children weren’t with them because the two sold them for money. After a while, the police could figure out to whom they were sold and the children were brought back to their father.

The aunt starts speaking about Newfoundland and the origin of their family. She tries to convince him to move with her to the birthplace of the family. Quoyle hesitates but then he sees a chance to begin from anew somewhere else.

In Newfoundland they will live in the house of their ancestors which stood empty the last 44 years. The house is lashed with cable to iron rings because it shakes at heavy wind and it is arranged on a cliff where they can watch the sea. Quoyle makes an effort to get a new work, so he goes to the local newspaper. His new Boss wants Doyle to do the shipping news and the weekly car wreck report. He doesn’t like both topics because he hates the water since his father tried to practice with him swimming by throwing him into lakes and brooks, and he lost his wife in a car accident who he still loves. But he needs a job, so he takes the chance. At beginning his text wasn’t that good but he improved what gave him confidence. Quoyle is accepted, respected and integrated in the new community. He also feels like he had found in Dennis and his mother Wavey Prowse a new family he never had. They got to know each other at the nursery school where she is the nursery teacher. At the beginning she tells that she is a widow who lost her husband to the sea but later Quoyle figures out that her husband left her for a young girl!

The Characters:

Quoyle: He is the main character of the story, 36 years old, very  naif, has  no self-confidence, is no-good, fat, ugly, thoughtful for his children. For him it is worse that his children are off with the mother than that his parents died. He is hardworking. Really untipical for a main character because he is a antihero who can’t do many things but he has the courage to face up to his fears. He hates his own family. In Newfoundland his character seems to strenghten, he is respected and integrated in the community. That’s the first time in his life that he feels useful and he finds at Wavey Prowse something he never had before, the true love and the feeling of a family.

Bunny and Sunshine: the children of Quoyle. Bunny is 6 and Sunshine 4. They like their mother. Even they think that their dad is a loser, bunny calls her father a “dumb” with the explanation that their mother Petal also did. Both don’t like Newfoundland, it seems so boring. Bunny gets on with Dennis, the son of Wavey Prowse. Bunny is weird because she has dreams about the house and the ancestors.

Agnis: She is the aunt of Quoyle.She helps him when he is in the problematic situation when the parents and his wife died. She got a strong but also closed character, she doesn’t talk about her feelings. Therefore she has also some secrets which Quoyle discovers. She honors the family and brings the ash of her brother back to Newfoundland. She is also a very hardworking person because she wants to rebuild her old home instead of renting a house. She takes also the role of a mother for Bunny and Sunshine.

Wavey Prowse: She is the mother of Dennis, good looking and nursery teacher. She cares about her reputation because she didn’t tell that her husband abandoned her for a younger girl. She feels attracted to Quoyle although he is not the best looking man. Gives Quoyle the feeling of a family

About the author:

Annie Proulx (born Edna Ann Proulx, her first name honoring one of her mother’s aunts) was born August 22, 1935 in Norwich, Connecticut. Her mother came from England and her father has his origins in Native American/French-Canadian ancestry.  She studied at the University of Vermont where She began professional writing with  books on cooking, gardening, and country living. Later on she founded a newspaper in Vermont called Behind the Times where she was the editor for two years. Her first novel, Postcards (1992) received the PEN/Faulkner Award. Up to this time she was the first woman who ever won this commendation. Only one year after the Faulkner Award she won with her second novel The Shipping News (1993) the Pulitzer Prize. More novels of her are Accordion Crimes (1996), and That Old Ace in the Hole (2002). Her short story “Brokeback Mountain” appeared in the collection Close Range (1999) and was adapted as a movie (2005). Her other story collections include Heart Songs (1988) and Bad Dirt (2004).

My opinion and conclusion:

I think this book is quite hard written and sometimes the sentences really frustrated me. In the beginning i thought wow this is quite interesting but after they went to Newfoundland, the actions in the stories were reduced and the comprehension problems increased. I don’t want to say this book is bad, i mean it won the Pulitzer Prize. There are just too many passages where the author just describes and describes and so on. All in all it was nice to see that a “loser” has still the possibility to have success in life but according to the story i would say it wasn’t worth it.


The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

November 3, 2009