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The Shipping News: Assessment of Stuart Pierson's Judgement

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Hello everybody and welcome back to another podcast, where I will be evaluating the reasonable assessment of Stuart Pierson’s judgement on the Shipping news, as seen on my hand out with close reference to the thematic element of “work”. As the story develops, effects of the global village are felt and passed down to Newfoundland in social, economic and industrial aspects of living. Whilst it can be argued that the humane Newfoundland has been overturned by new ways of living, it is inaccurate to only describe the pre-Americanised Newfoundland as bucolic.

Social economic ways:

Firstly, Proulx writes this story at a time when industrialisation has taken over the original simplicity of Newfoundland. Social and economic aspects are now focussed around mass shipping and oil exploration by the mainland. This social change comes after many successive generations of men have made their living from the sea and craftsmanship, and are now in search for a sense of meaning and purpose within Newfoundland. The global village has turned away from small and local seasonal fishing to year-round fishery operations and oil developments, which has been strongly felt by the people of Newfoundland.

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“There’s two ways of living here now.” spoken by Jack Buggit, is an import quote and is a turning point in how the decisions the people of Newfoundland make are now not made to feel a sense of belonging, but for the benefit of themselves. Jack says this to Quoyle after Tert Card leaves the town to work for the Americanised oil supply company, referring to uncertainty created by this social change.

Jack’s voice, when talking about the old way of life, is more enthusiastic and cheerful compared to when he talks about the new way of life, in a disparaging tone. In his eyes, the old way of life emphasised values of family loyalty, community, purpose and meaning in your life, whereas the new way suggests a family separation, working without purpose and to benefit off global trade. When explored further, Jack’s explanation that follows this quote about the new way of life is longer, and more detailed, emphasising the increased complexity that results from the new way of life.

Through Billy Pretty’s sadness over depleting natural resources it is made reminiscent not only because Newfoundland will never return to its original way, but the once simple way of life has been lost forever. This once easy lifestyle that was focused around working closely together with other Newfoundlanders has become about working together globally. The Previous part-pastoral way of country living has now dramatically changed with increased desire for the commodity oil.

Economic change is seen not only with the depleting cod, but also environmentally, with seagulls stuck in the oil infested seas. This change towards mass production has removed the need for individuals to possess a diverse skill set; like how to make a boat, catch cod, how to start a small business and prepare for the storm. Without the need for these daily skills, there also is the loss of the aesthetic value and sense of achievement that goes along with the skill. Quoyle’s column about the painting is a perfect example of this because they require hard work and skill to use.

Whilst the violent Americanised present has clearly changed multiple social and economic parts of the once simple Newfoundlander life, Pierson’s statement claiming Newfoundland was originally near perfect, are misleading. Early on in the novel Prulox describes the living conditions and landscape as harsh and stark, very different to the open green paddocks and blue skies associated with bucolic.

The biggest way the Americanised present has violently changed Newfoundland was through the exploitation of natural resources. Traditionally, Newfoundland, had completely relied on its natural resources in day to day life, from food to the way they made their living. Resource exploitation and population decline of cod exceed the sustainable resource yields in both the story and on the real island, causing many problems.

This top of industrialisation of traditional industries, such as logging and fishing is an important topic to discuss today as it has serious broader real world implication, similar scenarios can be seen around the world, a perfect example is business war in Africa that went on for over 30 years. Where Natural resources such as diamonds and oil within African nations like Angola, where exploited and used to pay for military weapons instead of trying to make the country a better place, by investing in the education of younger generations or help fight the extreme poverty.

Arguably this has made these African nations some of the most miserable places on earth. Outside nations and companies profited at the expense of the growing misery of these African countries because of colonialism which allowed for European countries to extract these resources for the benefit of their own country. Instead, outside countries should have been helping to block the flow of weapons and their ability to sell a nation’s patrimony.

This colonialization is similar the effects Industrialisation had on Newfoundland. The once gentle and easy way of life was overcome by the American present. Prulox writes the novel with three generations of Quoyles family to show the vast change in the conflict Newfoundland faces between the new and old industries. Tert Card sees the benefit of the change, confident it will bring the prosperity to Newfoundland that is badly needed. For years he has been itching to get out of Killick-claw and this drastic change gives him that opportunity.

In contrast, Quoyle can see the possible dangers, writing an article citing the dangers that the oil industries pose on the current way of life. Jack sums up any concerns of the industry saying to Quoyle “the goddamn Canada government is giving rights to every country on the face of the earth, but regulating us out of business”

In 2001, published in the Canadian issues, Dr Melvin Baker wrote a brief summary of the history of the cod fisheries. Explaining that the cod fisheries of the real Newfoundland were critical for residents until 1992 when the Government imposed a moratorium on the catching of cod off the east coast of Newfoundland causing the cod fisheries to collapse, disrupting the lives of 30’000 fishermen and fishery plant workers whose lives depended on the industry. He goes on to and discusses how the disruption forced many of these affected people to move to the Canadian mainland to find new jobs. Though once again this change was not completely overcome with the fishing industry being revived by a more centralised and professional industry, focusing their attention on crab and shrimp (Google Books, 2017).

Conclusion

To wrap everything up in summary, Stuart Pierson’s assessment of the Shipping news is true to a certain extent. As the novel develops, there are certain aspects that have been overcome by the new Americanised present but not necessarily for the worst, we can see economic and social changes with two ways to live, limited ways to make a living with many businesses being destroyed and exploitation of natural resources in traditional industries. Broader implications of these negative effects can be seem in the business war in Africa where nations and individuals profit off the misery of another country. However, to argue that Newfoundland offered the perfect country life to begin with, is misleading with Proulx describing Newfoundland as a place of harsh living conditions and landscape.

Hope you enjoyed this podcast, tune in next week to hear about the theme of culture and a one on one interview with Annie Proulx herself.

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