The Struggle in Shiloh by Bobbie Ann Mason

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Leroy and Norma Jean in the short story, “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason, are a married couple, and they experience a series of events, which shapes them and determines there future. The final setting, Shiloh, works well to highlight the battles of war to the battles between Norma Jean and Leroy. Throughout the story Mason is focused on the persistency of grief, the instability of gender roles, along with the distance and lack of communication separating Leroy and Norma Jean from each other. Mason illustrates how marriage can be a struggle striving to work out to the very end. The struggle to battle with the persistent grief of self-blame and lack of identity is a constant reminder to the barriers in relationships. Leroy grieves over the fact that he has lost his identity as a father and husband. Although he often thinks of Randy, the memories of him have faded. As a result, he latches on to Norma Jean but she doesn’t respond back. This causes him to feel like a failure of a husband. Norma Jean is grieving over the emptiness in her life. It was not the life she thought she would have. Her deceased son symbolizes her emptiness because of his death. She also feels emptiness towards her husband. For example, she feels very uncomfortable around him and always tries to find something for him to do. When Leroy arrives back home from his accident Mason implies, “he thinks she’s seems a little disappointed” (Mason 220), displaying Norma Jean frustrated with his lying around doing nothing but watching television and smoking pot. In addition, Norma Jean feels emptiness towards her mother, which is presented in the way her mother criticizes her. When tragedies occur in a family and self-confidence fades it can take over your life a... ... middle of paper ... ...nd dates to him.” “And the real inner workings of a marriage, like most history, have escaped him” (Mason 232). The story suggests that it is impossible to wrap our minds around abstractions such as war and marriage and that all we can do is understand how they relate to our own lives. Bobbie Ann Mason explores a relationship conflict between Leroy and Norma Jean. Mason uses a metaphor of craft building to Leroy and Norma Jean’s relationship. The accident makes Leroy realize what he missed out on in life and so his craft building is symbolic for him wanting to restart his life, rebuild his life, and his relationship with Norma. In the end the reader is left hanging to wonder if Leroy and Norma Jean end their marriage or figure out ways to fix it. Works Cited Mason, Bobbie Ann. "Shiloh." We Are the Stories We Tell. New York: Pantheon, 1990. 218-33. Print.

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