Bobbie Ann Mason's Shiloh and Ryan Harty's Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down

Bobbie Ann Mason's Shiloh and Ryan Harty's Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down

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A story review. Relationship changes over the passing of time as circumstances in life shape a person's way of thinking and way of life. Whether it flourishes or decays depends greatly upon how both people react to these alterations.

Before it is too late
Relationship changes over the passing of time as circumstances in life shape a person's way of thinking and way of life. Whether it flourishes or decays depends greatly upon how both people react to these alterations. In Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh" and Ryan Harty's "Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down", the couple in both stories are standing at the crossroads of their life where changes have happened and decision have to be made. Having to stay at home after a job-related incident, Leroy Moffitt in "Shiloh", realizes how much the relationship, between his wife and him, have changed over the years. Although they have known each other and stayed as husband and wife for such a long time, they have "forgotten a lot about each other" – the thoughts and feelings they had, the reasons which made them fell in love with each other. Similarly, in "Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down", the couple are faced with the apprehension of a seemingly permanent change in their relationship. Both have seemed to reach a point where "[they couldn't] go on". When oblivious to change, marriage becomes a word which only holds two people together. Negligence for the need to work together to resolve the influential issue will lead to irresolvable misunderstandings and irreversible consequences.
The changes which have occurred in both of the stories interrupted the false sense of closeness among the couples, serving to spark off long-term problems they had not realized. In "Shiloh", Leroy, is forced to retire to home after injuring his leg in a highway incident. Just like his truck, Leroy, no longer able to make his living as a truck driver, "has flown home to roost". However, he makes little effort to find another alternative to make his living. Realizing that he has missed so many things in life when he was still "on the road, he wanted to enjoy the freedom he had now, and to take more notice of the things happening around him. He no longer wanted to "fly past scenery". His wife, Norma Jean however, fails to acknowledge Leroy's attitude. Expecting Leroy to assume the responsibility of caring for the household, watching him idle around, taking up needlepoint and crafting, agitated Norma Jean.

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As the days went by, her unspoken expectation for Leroy heightens, and so does the tension for their marriage. Although they lived harmoniously, without any real arguments, Norma Jean's disapproval for Leroy's lack of productivity served to relief problems the both of them never really knew existed.
Likewise, in Ryan Harty's "Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down", facing the recurrent malfunctioning of their D3 child, Cole, weariness for the problem provoked Mike and Dana to face the problems they had discarded aside in their marriage. Wanting to "live a life of uninterrupted normalcy" Dana had always wanted to get Cole a D4 center chip which would alleviate all malfunctioning. However, installing a new D4 chip would mean giving up on Cole since the new chip would result in the child having a totally different personality after it was replaced, even though he may look the same on the exterior. Mike had greatly disliked this suggestion as he did not want to let go of Cole and the person Cole had grown into over the years. As a result, this issue had always been a matter in which the couple heavily disagreed upon. With Cole breaking down once more, the couple finally realizes that their problems have never been truly solved. Moving to the Southwest had only been an illusion to escape from reality. It had internalized their problems but not helped to resolve them.
Unsure of how to handle the change in relationship, Norma Jean and Dana had resorted to running away rather than facing it. As if gotten used to Leroy's absence in the house when he worked as a truck driver, Norma Jean appears uneasy with Leroy's now permanent existence in the house. She "[was] often startled" in finding Leroy's presence and lacks the joy a wife should have, now that her husband could spend more time at home. Like an unconscious reaction to Leroy's accident, Norma Jean appears to assume the role of the man in the family and spends less and less time at home. She becomes obsessed with working out to make herself "hard" – so as to be tougher in face of change, and enrolls herself in a night school. Inability to adapt to the changes in the relationship, and perhaps the awkwardness of not knowing how to face a stay-home Leroy, Norma Jean resolved to keeping herself busy. In her opinion, having "something to do" gave her a goal and occupied her thoughts. It was better than having nothing to do at all.
Similarly in the case for Dana, keeping herself occupied was the way she tackled when problems from Cole arises. "[Taking] on longer hours at work", Dana immersed herself in an option which did not require her to focus on Cole and the disagreement between her and Mike. Knowing that Mike and her would never come into an agreement with the D4 issue, she also "grew distant when she was home", as if she was trying, by all means, to recoil from the need to be confronted and reminded once again of Cole's problems. However, when faced with the situation of Cole breaking down again, Dana can no longer deal with it indifferently. The weariness and frustrations suppressed over time finally resulted in her outburst of putting things "to [a] stop".
Both couples' unwillingness to cope with the problems at hand, and their procrastination in dealing with the problem finally led to irresolvable misunderstandings and permanent scars in their marriage. In "Shiloh", Leroy continuously overlooked the need to care for his wife, Norma Jean. Back when he still had the ability to work as a truck driver, he "never took time to examine anything". He seldom took notice of the things that happened to Norma Jean when she was at home alone and he rarely spent time to understand or talk with her. It was only until after his accident, due to his frequent presence at home, that he began to "see things about Norma Jean that he never realized before". However, the seeds of permanent changes have been planted in the marriage. Both of them have left the relationship in idle for so long, they "have forgotten a lot about each other". Leroy could no longer "tell what [Norma Jean] feels about him" and the reason for both of them to still stay together seems almost habitual. Foreseeing the problem, Leroy however, does nothing to change the situation. He had thought of "[becoming] reacquainted" with Norma Jean again, understanding more about her life again but the things that he had intended to say, intended on finding out, never left his mouth. It was only until Norma Jean's declaration of leaving him for good that Leroy finally realizes how much he "[has been] leaving out". It was only until then, that Leroy begins to realize how many chances he has missed to salvage his relationship.
A little different from Leroy's situation, Mike from "Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down", seems to have acknowledged that something had permanently scarred his marriage. Knowing that something had happened between him and Dana, Mike did little to fight against the change. Instead, he prepared and braced himself for the inevitable. He "made it necessary to imagine raising Cole by [himself]," and he predicted that "[Dana] would be out of [his] arms for good" one day. Knowing that he and Dana could never come on agreeing terms with their handling of Cole's malfunctioning, preparing himself for the change became unavoidable. In face of the change in his marriage, Mike chooses his son over salvaging his marriage.
Neglecting to need to resolve a crisis in a marriage can be deadly on the relationship between the couple. As in the case of "Shiloh", Leroy's continuous absence in the household and his lack of concern for his wife had been a preparatory stage for Norma Jean's final decision to leave him. The continuous tension between Mike and Dana over Cole's problem was also a source for the damage done on their marriage. Running away from a problem is never better than to deal with it face to face. The final despairing consequences in both of the couple's marriage are indeed the result of the lack of communication. If Leroy had managed to try reacquainting with Norma Jean earlier or spend time to understand her insecurities, perhaps Norma Jean would not have wanted to leave him. If Mike had managed to voice out his opinions over Cole's situation and to reassure Dana, rather than completely surrendering to the change in marriage, perhaps the difference between the couple could be solved. It is only when situations become irreversible that people finally learn to treasure what they have in life. If both couples in the stories realized the need for communication earlier, things would possibly end less heartbreakingly and despairingly.
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