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Volume 38, Number 1 (2013)

Tradition, Modernity, and the Enmeshing of Home and Away: The Shipping News and Proulx’s 1990s Newfoundland

February 28, 2014


In its portrait of coastal Newfoundland, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News both exploits and subverts an idealized and romanticized notion of the quirky and close-to-nature “Folk.” Its depiction of island realities also emphasizes the challenging effects of postmodernity on the fictional outport community of Killick-Claw (although Lasse Halström’s film version largely omits this theme). Proulx’s exploration of the tension between tradition and modernity also addresses questions of ecology: the novel gains force from its descriptions of the wild and coastal landscapes that are the foundation of its appeal to tourists, and forces affecting Killick-Claw include big commercial and government interests, ecological decline, and the lack of sustainable work. Tensions between Home and Away and between tradition and modernity are explored through the complex trope of the sea, and the novel stresses the ways in which increased outside influences on Newfoundland force the community to deal with change.