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The Battlefield

Good Essays
In Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh there are only a handful of characters. She tells the story of a husband (Leroy) and wife (Norma Jean) and their troubled marriage. Mason’s tale is narrated through the eyes of Leroy. This first person narrative and limited point of view masks Norma Jean’s need for, and thoughts of independence. Additionally, the story uses the symbols of a log cabin, a dust ruffle, and the title Shiloh to reinforce Norma Jean and Leroy’s dysfunctionality.
First, the story that is told by Leroy reveals just how little he understands Norma Jean. He is lost in life at this point. The accident that has taken away his livelihood has also disrupted Norma Jean’s comfortable existence. After traveling for fifteen years he enjoys being home with Norma but “… he can’t tell what she feels about him” (805). Leroy “… thinks she seems a little disappointed about…” finding him at home all the time (805). He slowly begins to notice small details about Norma Jean. These revelations added together lead Leroy, and the reader, to understand that Norma Jean is preparing to leave the marriage.
Next, by examining the symbols that Mason uses in this short story, the battle that is going on inside this marriage is revealed. Beginning with the dust ruffle that Mabel, Norma Jean’s mother, makes for her. This dust ruffle represents the hidden feelings and emotions that Norma Jean and Leroy keep from each other. One example is, the grief they feel over the death of their infant son, Randy. Even when Mabel brings up the death of another child, they only discuss Mabel’s intentions, but say nothing about the grief of losing their baby. Norma Jean tells Leroy that her mother, “ … just said that about the baby because …...

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... feminine activities, like sewing. He even thinks of his rig as “… a piece of furniture gathering dust in the backyard” (810). Leroy is no longer the breadwinner; Norma Jean has taken over this role. She is exercising and going to night classes. In the story she flexes her muscles, which is typically something a man would do. This trading of gender roles plays a part in Norma’s dissatisfaction with Leroy. She tells him to go to work, so she can have some respect for him again.
In conclusion, the author of Shiloh incorporates the symbols of a log cabin, the title of the short story, and a dust ruffle to show that Leroy and Norma Jean are headed in very different directions. Mason also tells the story through Leroy’s limited understanding of his wife and their situation. This marriage is headed towards a battle from the very beginning of the story.
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