The American Dream In Quoyle's The Shipping News

Words: 1267
Pages: 6

The American Dream, in which people find satisfaction in wealth and materialism, has long been a model of success. Since the birth of the United States, a single story has served as the poster child of the American Dream; a man born into disadvantage rises to success through his own hard work. Quoyle, The Shipping News’ protagonist, is born into a family of poor immigrants and set up to live out this tale, but ultimately fails. After a series of events in which the perfect American life turns against him, luckless Quoyle abandons America, and returns to his ancestral home of Newfoundland, where he experiences unprecedented personal growth. He becomes confident and self-sufficient, and a better father to his two young daughters. In The Shipping …show more content…
By moving to Newfoundland, he undoes the work of his parents and grandparents who traveled to America to escape their family’s origins: a “wild and inbred” clan of “half-wits and murderers” (Proulx 162). While subject to the stigma of the Quoyle-name upon his arrival to Newfoundland, Quoyle and his aunt Agnis quickly create a new image for their family name. They become the first generation of a new type of Quoyle: hard-working and kind, nothing like the savage and incestuous generation that had come before them. Similarly, the Newfoundland culture struggles for identity, getting caught in a battle between traditionalism and modernism. The followers of the “old way…look out for your family’” and “make do with what you got’”, while those that support the “new way” are materialistic, worshipping the “consumer ratings, asphalt driveways, lotteries, fried chicken franchises, Mint Royale coffee and gourmet shops, all that stuff” (285-286). Proulx’s opinion on the Western idea of modernization is similar to that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel 100 Years of Solitude. Both authors portray the industries that infiltrate their formerly isolated communities in a mainly negative light, but highlight the technology and infrastructure that the industries bring. In Newfoundland, Quoyle creates a balance between the old and the new. He rejects both the savagery of his ancestors and the toxicity of Western materialism, while embracing the Newfoundland simplicity, ultimately finding