Analysis of Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh”





Analysis of Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh”

The general criticism of Shiloh by Bobbie Ann Mason focuses considerably on the relationship that the individual bears in respect to the society. In fact, based on the narrative, the concept under analysis involves the representation of the society in relation to the perspective of the individual. The story, Shiloh is centered on the gradual fallout between Leroy Moffitt and Norma Jean. The disintegration of their marriage begins taking place after the character, Leroy, is injured and rendered incapacitated. As such, he is incapable of using his 18-wheeler and spends most of his time convalescing in his house. Aside from the accident, Leroy, and Norma Jean’s child, Randy, dies due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which affects the latter significantly as identified by the new activities that she begins to partake. Eventually, the relationship between Leroy and Norma Jean comes to a decisive halt when Norma expresses her need to leave him. Amidst the conflict, Shiloh firmly represents the impact that a successive set of events imposed on pushing both couples towards the external borders of normal experience.

The push towards the outer borders of normal experience in the narrative in question is identified by the different activities that the characters, Leroy and Norma Jean, partake in despite the limitations imposed on them by their matrimonial union. In Shiloh, various events assume a significant role in driving the main characters towards the edge of their experiences as a married couple. Foremost, the leg injury that Leroy receives influences a significant change in him (Mason 1). Since he is incapable of engaging in activities outside his role as a husband and a provider, he is forced to adapt to the limited surroundings of his household. Nonetheless, Leroy represents the persona of a man pushed towards the external borders of normal experience due to the unusual activities he begins to incorporate while under convalescence. For example, from the narrative, it is shown that Leroy has begun taking part in the consumption of psychoactive substances, specifically marijuana, despite being confined in his own personal space at home due to his leg injury as well as the death of Randy to a sizeable extent (Mason 3).

The phase that Leroy undergoes also bears significant similarities to the experiences that Norma Jean faces. From the onset of the narrative, it is evident that Norma Jean partakes in duties that are stereotypically reserved for a woman within a domestic setting. Simply, she assumes the role of a homemaker by taking care of her husband and accepting her maternal role as evidenced by the birth of their son, Randy. However, as the narrative progresses, Norma Jean begins displaying ‘strange’ behavior as noted by her mother, Mabel (Mason 3). Interestingly, the engagement in the supposed behavior begins right after Leroy’s leg injury as well as the demise of her son, Randy. In the end, both events succeed in the deterioration of her relationship with Leroy and influence a sudden inclination towards activities that she did not do prior to the respective incidences. For instance, after the death of Randy, Norma Jean begins taking part in activities such as weight training, making exotic foodstuffs, playing the organ, and participating in a composition certificate at the community college. To this end, the respective events force her to realize her mortality as evidenced by her matrimonial departure from Leroy.

One interesting aspect of the narrative, Shiloh, is based on the role that Leroy assumes as the main protagonist. Accordingly, the respective story is told from a third-person view, which implies that the audience solely receives Leroy’s perspectives. As such, the story narrated in “Shiloh” unfolds from the character’s point of view. Since the story flows from the viewpoint of Leroy, it is possible to assert that the narrative is the character’s story. In particular, the reader sees the other characters present in the story from the viewpoint of Leroy’s eyes, instead of receiving an entirely objective sight of them. The benefit of the narrative being told from the perspective of Leroy is evidenced by the progression that the audience undergoes in light of the recognition that the protagonist gains as he gradually observes. This is particularly evidenced by his recognition of his wife, Norma Jean, as well as her desire to leave him, which is revealed in the end. From the onset, Leroy begins to question Norma’s affection for him and in the process, starts to learn novel things regarding his wife such as the ingredients she uses to cook her food as well as the things that she consumes for breakfast (Mason 1).

The new things that Leroy begins to learn about Norma Jean also translate into a gradual recognition of the respective character by the audience. Based on such details, Leroy sequentially begins to comprehend the character traits of his spouse further allowing the audience to gain significant knowledge of Norma Jean as well as her longing to expel herself from the marriage. In the end, the narrative culminates with a reference to Shiloh. As a civil war memorial, the respective location assumes an important role in the narrative by signifying the end of an experience and the beginning of another as identified by Norma’s Jean predisposition towards it after the culmination of her marriage.


Work Cited

Mason, Bobbie Ann. “Shiloh.” n. d. Microsoft Word file.

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