Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Quoyle, the main character of this book and the protagonist, is quite far from a hero. At 36 he can be viewed as a lost and pathetic character, "...waiting for his (life) to begin" (11). Finally half way through the book, when he decides to step of the box in his low end news paper job, he experienced, "...the first time anybody ever said he'd done it right" (144).

Why is Quoyle prone to failure? While millions of other men in their thirties are thriving, he is struggling to find success anywhere. He is hopelessly in love with a woman who could not care less for him, and when she passes away he continues to love her greatly. In and out of unappealing jobs, two daughters his wife tries to sell before her death, parents who commit suicide, and his one best friend to move away. His life seems to be the picture of disappointment. Part of his failure I believe comes from his personality. He is a drifter and a follower. He doesn't know any better, has no motivation and simply does not even know what to do. In order to prevail in adversity, one must have the strength and motivation to do so. Quoyle may not even realize what a disappointment his life has become.

But, there is a turn. Just as in The Odyssey, throughout the course of the book Quoyle begins to grow. He moves his family to Newfoundland (ironically) and slowly learns what real love is through his daughters. He finds his niche in writing "The Shipping News" at the Gammy Bird. And as he learns about his past in Newfoundland, he finally severs the ties of his old life into a man of true character.

Interesting. A man, seemingly a failure, finds a way to prevail. His collections of inadequacy eventually transforms into the ultimate success. This goes to show that with strength and motivation, through growth, even the people that fail can prevail.

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