Alex Wyllie Dr. Bassett IB English HL October 4 2008 The Pricking Thorns of Misplaced Love In Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News the main character Quoyle is constantly plagued by the ill placed love and vision of his wretched late wife. Quoyle is introduced and characterized as a lame excuse for a man who “survives” through parts of his life (Proulx 1). From the beginning of his life both his father and brother view him as a “failure” (Proulx 2). These two being the only two family members he grows up with this is the way that Quoyle is made to think that love is.
Quoyle’s relationship with Petal Bear plagues his existence and almost forces him to lose his chance at redemption. The Shipping News is a book about a man named Quoyle and his struggle through life ultimately leading to a point later in his life when he can gain a sort of redemption. From the beginning of his life he tends to fail at various elements of life. This carries over for most of his life through the point in which he becomes a newsman. At the “Mockingburg Record”his general failure carries over into his writing that generally needs to be re-written.
He at this point in the novel he meets his soon to be wife Petal Bear. Petal entrances Quoyle and by being the only person to allow him to feel happiness for “a month of fiery happiness” which was followed by “six kinked years of suffering” (13). The novel then goes on to describe Petal’s unfaithful nature and her audacity about it;this ends with Petal’s abrupt death. From this point Quoyle’s “Aunt” comes and whisks Quoyle and his two children to their “ancestral home”,Newfoundland.
Upon arriving there he adopts his family’s old house and takes up a job at the local paper “The Gammy Bird”. Truly the paper is a metaphor for his life as he gets better as a writer his quality of life improves also, to the point in which he can have a healthyrelationship with a new woman. The significance of writing in terms of metaphorical prevalence is, as he becomes a better writer he no longer has a “failure of normal appearance” (3). From an early age Quoylehas only understood love to be a painful relationship. His first interpersonal relationships are with his father and brother.
The brother often hissed at him “Lardass, Snotface, Ugly Pig, Warthog, Stupid, Stinkbomb, Fart-tub, Greasebag. ”, This abuse was repeated until poor Quoylecurled over and cried. His father often saw his son’s failure and noticed how that multiplied into an exponentialamount of failures. Quoyle’s only other mentioned relationships are that of his friend Partridge and Petal Bear. Partridge is the only positive relationship that Quoyle appears to have in his life while the relationship with Petal is the most cripplingly negative.
Quoyle marries a malicious woman by the name Petal Bear, that with he experiences one month of happinessand six agonizing years there after. While her infidelity is a strong theme of her nature Quoyleonly replies with a meek answer of “No divorce” (16). “Quoyle believed in silent suffering,” despite his constant torture consisting of Petal not recognizing their children and making love to another man in his bed (16). “He struggled to deaden his feelings, to behave well. A test of love. The sharper the pain, the greater the proof. Quoyle did not leave this vile women that obviously hated him because he felt that everything that she put him through was simply a “test of love” the way hesaw love was pain (17). Despite only being alive in the story for a very short amount of time Petal has a large role in Quoyle’s recovery and path to a new life. In the beginning of his journey to redemption Quoyle tells his children that Petal has “gone to sleep” and that she’s in heaven, he does this for the kids sake in his mind only to shield the fact that he refuses to believe that she is dead (Proulx 45).
The two apples of his eye Bunny and Sunshine both have a nature strikingly similar to Petal making it harder for Quoyle to get over her; e. g. “I hate you, Dad! You’re dumb! ” (39). The question about Quoyle, however, is; whether or not his feelings for Petal are justified. The answer is on some level yes they are justified and at the same time no they are not. Petal was the first person to ever show Quoyle any type of love “As a hot mouth warms a cold spoon, Petal warmed Quoyle” (13).
This passage shows Quoyle’s compete passivity prior to and after Petal. Yet however justified his original feelings were, once Petal had abused him in the ways that she did whatever validation had been there before disappeared. Wavey Prowse is the subject of Quoyle’s newfound affection contraire to his belief that the spark of love only comes once. He starts to get close to her, yet every time he does,he begins to think again of Petal.
This harpy continues to haunt his thoughts throughout the novel and threatens to squelch Quoyle’s only chance for happiness and redemption. Interestingly enough,Wavey is also getting over an aggressively natured late spouse. In this way they are getting over their late partners and both find a sense of redemption together. Quoyle is a character subject to tragedy for the better part of his life leading up to the point when he can gain a level of redemption from his life.
In order to do this he has to get over his dead abusive wife as he starts his new life. He starts off with joining a local newspaper and rising the position of editor. Quoyle makes advances in other areas then just the professional sphere, he falls for Wavey Prowse and makes his advances on her. He proves wrong his previously conceived notions on the nature of love and how people act towards the ones they love. Quoyle comes all of his shortcomings, grief and guilt to marry Wavey and find what is best described as “his happy ending”