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Shiloh

Using outside sources

Ashley Riddick

 

Professor MacDonald

GEEN 111

April 2005

 

            Bobbie Ann Mason’s short story, “Shiloh”, is about a couple that is struggling in their marriage. The two main characters in the story are Norma Jean, the wife and Leroy, the husband. Norma Jean is a woman who represents the modern day women trying to find her identity (The Explicator). She wants to end her marriage now that Leroy has stopped working due to a truck accident that damaged his leg. Leroy, on the other hand, is happy to be home and wants to continue their marriage.  Both Norma Jean and Leroy contributed to the marriage falling apart.

            Leroy’s accident was the beginning of the end of his marriage (Wntr).  He feels guilty about being away so much and has learned to appreciate being at home.  Norma Jean was used to Leroy being away, but now that Leroy is at home all the time, Norma Jean tries to avoid him. Leroy isn’t sure about how Norma Jean feels about him or why she tries to avoid him.  “He is reasonably certain she has been faithful to him, but he wishes she would celebrate his permanent homecoming more happily.  Norma Jean is often startled to find Leroy at home, and he thinks she seems a little disappointed about it” (292).  I think she doesn’t want him around because he reminds her of what happened in the beginning of their marriage.

            The marriage didn’t start off good from the beginning.  Norma Jean married Leroy because she was pregnant and didn’t want her mother to disown her.  They ended up losing their son due to sudden infant death syndrome. Since that happened neither of them have talked about it. They both try to avoid the fact that it happened, which doesn’t help their marriage at all.  

                 Leroy thinks he can save his marriage by building Norma Jean a new house (Wntr).  Now that he has nothing but time, he thinks it is a good idea for he and Norma Jean to build a log cabin together. Norma Jean obviously disagrees with Leroy’s idea about the log cabin and makes no attempt to do anything to better their relationship.  Leroy still wants to build the log cabin and goes to Norma Jean’s mother for a second opinion. When Leroy shows Mabel, Norma Jean’s mother, a replica of the log cabin he wants to build she takes the roof off.  According to The Explicator, the emptiness on the inside of the log cabin represents the emptiness of the marriage (Wntr).  Leroy is disappointed about Mabel’s comments regarding the log cabin.  “‘You couldn’t get me in a log cabin,’” she says. ‘I was raised in one. It’s no picnic, let me tell you’” (298).  She tries to discourage him about the idea and suggests that he and Norma Jean take a trip to Shiloh.  Ironically, Norma Jean agrees to go with Leroy and even plans a picnic for them.

            While in Shiloh, Norma Jean finally tells Leroy how she feels.  During thepicnic, NJean tells Leroy that she wants to leave him.  Leroy tries to understand her reasons for wanting to leave and tries to change her mind about it.  She just walks away. Leroy starts to realize that his marriage is really about to end. The story basically ends with the image of Norma Jean being set free.  “Norma Jean has reached the bluff, and she is looking out over the Tennessee River.  Now she turns toward Leroy and waves her arms.  Is she beckoning to him?  She seems to be doing an exercise for her chest muscles.  The sky is unusually pale---the color of the dust ruffle Mabel made for their bed” (301).  According to The Explicator, the image of Norma Jean waving her arms represents her spreading her wings and flying free (The Explicator).  We don’t know what Norma Jean is actually doing at the end of the story.  All the evidence supports the fact that Norma Jean is going to leave Leroy.  Personally, I think the marriage can be worked on, but it looks like Norma Jean has her mind made up.   

Works Cited

Blythe, Hal and Charlie Sweet. “Mason’s ‘Shiloh.’” The Explicator 61.2 (Winter 2003). InfoTrac OneFile. Virginia State U Lib. April 2005 <http://library.vsu.edu>.

Cooke, Stewart. “Mason’s ‘Shiloh.’” The Explicator 51.3 (Spring 1993). InfoTrac OneFile Virginia State U Lib. April 2005 <http://library.vsu.edu>.