Just as Newfoundlanders have to confront the sea, survive it, so people have to face life’s traumas and find the will to go on.
To what extent is Proulx saying people must ‘weather the storms’ of life and reconcile the past with the future?
To face life’s storms is not to reconcile the past with the future, meaning to be happy with it, but to confront the past, conquer it, and then accept it. Acceptance in this instance, meaning to acknowledge the past, and acknowledge that it cannot be changed. It does not need to be understood, simply recognised as something that has happened. In acceptance, feelings of anger, regret and guilt are dissipated. These are the steps that are to be taken in order to cope, “weather the storms” of life and move forward. All of the characters in the novel have to cope with their lives, some of which are more difficult than others.
Quoyle had many traumatic events in his life, and until he went to Newfoundland he was not coping with them. It was through help from others that he could confront, conquer and accept his past to start truly coping with life. Other characters, including Wavey and Agnis also have to confront, conquer and accept their pasts to cope and get on with life. Although it is not a matter of life and death as to whether the characters cope with life, they will have to face it eventually. Newfoundlanders undertake this idea, and learn how to confront, conquer and accept what happens in their lives.
Wavey has her own past to confront and accept. Throughout the novel and her development of the relationship with Quoyle, she has to learn to trust again after her husband’s treatment of her, and accept his death. She did this through her relationship with Quoyle, by learning to develop a mutually open and trusting relationship. Their trust was developed but a sharing of common painful experiences with their spouses, in a safe and comfortable environment. Wavey was able to share her secrets with Quoyle, because he was able to share his with her first. “The way Quoyle talked of his love, but never the woman? Could pull out one from her own skein of secrets.” (Pg 307) Wavey’s trust enables her to accept her husband’s behaviour towards her and his death, so she can move forward in her life.
Another example of a trusting relationship that is formed is one with Agnis and the new Quoyle fam...
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...t them. Nutbeem shows his ability to do this after his boat has been destroyed at his farewell party “’At least you can smile about it.’ Dennis, half smiling to himself. ‘If I didn’t I’d go round the twist, wouldn’t I? No, I’ve decided to smile, forget and fly to Brazil.’” (Pg 268.) Instead of getting upset and trying hopelessly to fix the boat, Nutbeem accepts what has happened, and finds another way around it. Jack displays his acceptance of his life, is shown in the way he goes out on his boat and fishes everyday, even though his grandfather, father and eldest son all died at sea.
To reconcile with the past is to forgive, and be contented with it. To accept the past is acknowledge its existence, and the inability to change its facts. Quoyle, through developing new relationships in Newfoundland and discovering his family history, is able to move forward by confronting, conquering and accepting his own past. This is also been reflected in Wavey’s life. Through her relationship with Quoyle she has developed the ability to trust and love again. Going back to Newfoundland enabled Agnis to confront her familial demons, and so to accept her past and move forward into the future.
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