The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Happy Conclusion of a Tragic Story.
Many authors write great plays and novels, which mostly end in a successful conclusion that fulfills the satisfaction of the readers. The famous William Shakespeare, however, wrote plays with a happy conclusion or a tragic conclusion. Much the same as him, Annie Proulx, the author of a famous novel, The Shipping News, focuses on a tragic story with a happy conclusion. The novel is about a man named, Quoyle, who is struggling to reclaim his life while single parenting his two daughters. Many readers claim that The Shipping News does not have a happy ending; however, it does have one due to the characters of Bunny, Quoyle and Agnis overcoming obstacles and leaving the readers with satisfaction.
Firstly, the novel has a happy conclusion because Bunny overcomes her fears of white dogs, becomes closer to her father and accepts Wavey as a mother figure. Bunny is the daughter of Quoyle and Petal and she, the six-year-old, fears white dogs. One day, in the Newfoundland, when everyone is sleeping, Bunny gets up and looks out the window and starts claiming she saw a white dog. Quoyle and the Aunt searched, but there was no site. This is did not occur once; she claimed to see a white dog many times. However, as the novel progresses, Bunny meets a woman named Wavey and she shares her thoughts to her. Later on, Wavey tells Bunny to face her fears. Over time, Bunny does and gets over her fears, as Quoyle thinks, when Wavey gifts Bunny a white husky dog, “’It’s a white dog.’ Could hardly say it” (Proulx 315). Bunny gets so excited to see a white dog, she starts talking about her future and how she is going to race the dog when she gets older. Astound, Quoyle does not believe that his daughter has gotten over her fear of white dogs. In addition, not only does Bunny get over her fears, she also builds a better relationship with her father, Quoyle. For example, in the beginning of the novel, Bunny and Quoyle are distant from each other, but once the family moves to Killick Claw, they grow to be better to each other. When Bunny finds out what happened to Petal being dead, bunny says, “She’s sleeping, Dad says” (Proulx 335). This means that Bunny has developed a strong relationship with her father that she not willing to agree with what Wavey is telling her. This makes the readers realize that the father and daughter have strong relationship near the end of the novel because of Bunny’s trust. Moreover, Bunny does not get over Petal death quickly. Every now and then, she would ask where Petal is, but she seemed oblivious to the truth. However, once she meets Wavey, she thinks less and less of Petal and accepts Wavey as mother figure. For example, when whenever Bunny wants something, she would go to Wavey and ask for it, just like how a little girl would ask her mother. Near the end of the novel, the author states, “’Wavey. Can we go see if the bird’s still there’ […] ‘Yes’” (Proulx 335). Bunny wants to see the dead bird, right after talking about Petal’s death. This makes the readers feel satisfaction that Wavey is being a good mother figure and Bunny is accepting that by constantly allowing her. Overall, the novel has a happy ending because Bunny’s character overcomes her fears of white dogs, becomes closer to her father and accepts Wavey as a mother figure, leaving the readers satisfied.
Secondly, the novel has happy ending because Quoyle overcomes his fears and becomes a better character by achieving self-confidence, moving on with his previous relationship and becoming a better parent. In the begging, Quoyle is a very bleak individual, who does not have much trust in himself, and does not think he can attain much as a person such as love or affection. During the first chapter, the author gives an indication of how Quoyle’s life is during his childhood, for when his own father verbally abused him by calling him a failure. This causes Quoyle to have low self-confidence, which leaves an imprint and carries on into his adulthood. However, through the years he finds something he is good at, that is writing. In contrast, when he first starts, he is a bad writer, but once he comes to Killick Claw, and writes a news article for the Gammy Bird, he gets recognition for his work. The author states, “Thirty-six years old and his [is] the first time anybody ever said he’d done it right” (Proulx, 114). From a single success, Quoyle gains more self-confidence. This allows him to be more social and make friends that accept him for who he is. Quoyle’s success for the first time in his life leaves the readers with satisfaction that the man did achieve something. Furthermore, Quoyle’s lack of love and affection does not end there. Throughout the novel, Quoyle misses his ex-wife, Petal. Every moment, the man would miss his ex-wife and grieve over it. However, once he meets Wavey, a widow in Killick Claw with a disabled son, he thinks less of Petal. Since both have not moved on from their past relationship, Quoyle finds much of mutuality between them and they develop a relationship. Near the end of the novel, the author states, “”All he felt with Wavey [is] comfort and a modest joy” (Proulx, 304). Quoyle feels belonging and comfort with Wavey, whereas with Petal, he felt like he was begging more affection. This says that Quoyle has moved on and is allowing himself to commit to a relationship with someone who is willing to return the same commitment. Quoyle moving on from Petal leaves the readers satisfied. Moreover, not only does Quoyle get over his low self-confidence and his relationship with his ex-wife, he also becomes a better father to his daughters. In the begging of the novel, Quoyle does not pay much attention to his two daughters, Bunny and Sunshine. This causes the readers to think he is being a bad parent. However, once he moves to Killick Claw, he develops a closer relationship with two daughters. Quoyle realizes that he does not want his two daughters to go through the same thing he went through, because his awful childhood. For example, Bunny sees the white dog and Quoyle feels: “his own failure to love her enough [has] damaged Bunny” (Proulx, 134). As he slowly develops to create a good relationship with his daughters, he becomes a good parent. For instance, Bunny gets sick and when Quoyle finds out, he says, “Poor baby” (Proulx, 261) and makes her a cup of tea. Quoyle shows care for his daughters that he did not show before. From this, the readers feel relieved that Quoyle is now a better parent for his two young daughters. Overall, the novel has happy conclusion because Quoyle’s character gains confidence, moves on from his previous relationship and becomes a better parent leaving the readers satisfied.
Lastly, the novel has a happy conclusion because Agnis moves on from the past by accepting her bad childhood memories, moving on from her past relationship with Irene Warren and feeling relief when the house goes down. In the beginning, Agnis Hamm, also known as the Aunt, is a mysterious character. The author does not give much information of her; however, she her past does not come out until later in the novel. During her childhood, her older brother, Guy, sexually harassed her. Throughout the novel, Agnis tries to hide this fact from Quoyle, however, Quoyle already knows from his cousin, Nolan. Many times in the novel, Agnis talks bitterly of Quoyle’s father, therefore, when Quoyle confronts Agnis, she diverts the topic to something else. The author writes, “She straightened up, the busy hand revived. Pretending he’d never said a thing” (Proulx, 322-3). However, in a way, Agnis is relieved that her nephew knows, and she can move on and not worry about telling the truth herself. The weight goes away from her shoulder, allows the reader to feel satisfaction of her life. Furthermore, Agnis does not only move on with her childhood memories, but also moves on with love life. Very subtly, the author states that Agnis is lesbian and she cannot move on with her past relationship with Irene Warren. To keep memory of her ex, she names her dog after it, but it dies very quickly. Still hung up on that, the readers feel sorry for her. Therefore, as the book progresses and Agnis involve herself more around by starting a shop. She hires a woman named Mavis Banks and both become close as the book progresses. Both become close that Agnis says, “Mavis wants to go partners in the business […] it makes sense if we both live upstairs over the shop” (Proulx, 323). Agnis and Mavis become so close that both decide to live together. This means Agnis moved on with Irene and made a close friend by getting over her past. From this the readers feel relieved that Agnis has moved on and has made close friends. Moreover, the readers feel more relief when the Quoyle family house fell down. Throughout the novel, the house becomes a good attachment to the family symbolizing many things such as weakness in each individual. For Agnis, the house holds the memory of her childhood, where her brother abused her. For when Quoyle tells Agnis about the house being blown away due to the wind and bad storm, “he could hardly believe what he heard. The house gone and [Agnis] asked about the crapper” (Proulx 322). In a way, Agnis is relieved that the house is gone and the wind has blown away the bad memories. This makes the readers relieved as well because the house carried darkness and now it is gone. Overall, the novel has a happy ending because Agnis’s character accepts her bad childhood, moves on from her past relationship and feeling relief when the house falls.
In conclusion, The Shipping News does have a cheerful closure because of the characters Bunny, Quoyle and Agnis by overcoming their barriers and leaving the readers with fulfillment. Bunny gets over her fears and accepts her family, Quoyle achieves self-confidence allowing him to develop a relationship with others including his daughters and lastly, Agnis moves on with her childhood memories and accepts the present. Overall, Annie Proulx did fulfill the satisfaction of the readers by writing a wonderful novel.
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