The Shipping News

Use of Place and Setting in The Shipping News 12th Grade

Superficially, Newfoundland is merely the setting of E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. More fundamentally, however, Newfoundland is instrumental to the action, characters and ideas of the novel. Newfoundland’s ruggedness generates the unique conditions in which the development of the protagonist, Quoyle, is possible. There, he finds a community in which he completely belongs and, in turn, develops resilience and a sense of self that allow him to overcome the past. The contrast between Mockingburg and Newfoundland also allows Proulx to discuss more obvious contemporary issues, such as rural decline and modernisation.

Before looking at how Proulx uses place to develop the novel’s characters and themes, it is important to examine place as a literary technique to provide insights into the characters and foreshadow imminent events. Descriptions of the weather, natural environment and sea are constant, often beginning chapters or sections (including chapters 11, 15, 19 and 24). This creates a vivid impression of the remoteness and harshness of Newfoundland. Rather than didactically explaining why Newfoundland is so important, Proulx uses these snapshots to provide a more nuanced sense of significance.

These descriptions also bring...

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