In The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx, the main character Quoyle was lost. Beginning without a purpose in life, Quoyle manages to develop strength of character as each new obstacle is sent flying his way. Redemption is always possible no matter how horrible life can be. This is shown though: when Quoyle obtained happiness, or at least, no longer miserable; when he learned how to love and be loved by people; and when he managed to separate himself from his ancestors. Through these various ways of redeeming himself, he most importantly had to be happy and comfortable in his own skin, thus allowing him to change other aspects of his life.
Happiness is not simply obtained, it has to be pursued. Quoyle was a spineless loser with nothing to account for in his life, where, by the end of the novel, he accomplished a drastic change in character. As a play on words, Proulx named the main character: “Quoyle: A coil of rope” (Proulx, 1). As his name suggests, he is walked all over like the coil of rope that is rolled up on the deck of a ship. He lacked all confidence, and as each new failure stacked up, he would continue to shuffle aimlessly though life. After buying the awful boat he thinks to himself: “Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More” (Proulx, 89). This was fitting for him to say considering he failed at everything he would try to do. It is impossible to pinpoint when Quoyle’s life truly started to turn around for the better, but when, for the first time in his life, he is told that he did something right, it was clear that his life was slowly going uphill. But, to be truly happy he had to let go of all his ties to his past and, like the ancestral house at Quoyle’s Point, his life couldn’t simply be repaired. So as he tried to patch up his life and move on he still was not able to obtain happiness. Only when the ancestral home disappeared into oblivion, was Quoyle really able to start anew. Like the metal cables that were attaching the house to the rock, Quoyle was similarly tied to the house. With all those cords snapped in two, he was finally free from the last thing that was anchoring him to the past. Without having ties to the past, he was able to see that love did not have to hurt him.
Love should not need to be painful. There was nothing right about Quoyle’s relationship with Petal. She was a cruel, passive aggressive woman, who treated Quoyle horribly. She would constantly toy with his emotions, pretending not to recognize their children and bringing other men in to their home to have sex with. Nonetheless, Quoyle loved her. He seemed to feel that this is what love was like, that this was what he deserved. So, when he meets Wavey, he is slightly mesmerized by her. She is “the tall and quiet woman” (Proulx, 115). She is kind to Quoyle and he does not seem to have a burning desire for her. He is more aware of her grace. Therefore, he believes that he does not love her. But, as he learned to like himself and let go of his past, he was also able to see that he loved Wavey. In the last few lines of the novel, Quoyle was thinking to himself about different things that now make him happy. The last thing that he thinks to himself is that: “It may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery” (Proulx, 337).” Showing that he is finally able to love properly. Being able to love is one thing, but breaking away form the mould your ancestors have left behind can prove to be very difficult.
You have to look at your family roots in order to heal and restart. Throughout the novel he is constantly thinking about his ancestors that were known to be abusive and murders. Quoyle had to learn that just because his ancestors were horrible people did not necessarily mean that he would end up the same way. When he went to find the uncle, he called out Mr. Quoyle, and “felt he was calling himself” (Proulx, 264). Symbolically, Annie Proulx gave him no first name; he is stuck solely with Quoyle, linking him to his family. It was only when he published the newspaper being the managing editor that he was given initials, showing that he is an individual, different from his ancestors. Going back to where his ancestors were from and looking into his family history enabled Quoyle to move on.
Life is a struggle, and sometimes being completely happy is not the answer. Sometimes all someone needs is to have an absence of pain. It is in this state that Quoyle was able to start over and make changes to himself. Being content with who he was, he was able to let Wavey into his life and love her. Being content, he was also able to establish that he was an individual and not like his ancestors.