Shilo: Norma Jean and Leroy Essay

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In Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh”, after Leroy’s accident in his truck, the pleasant illusion that he is in a perfectly functioning marriage is shattered leaving the reality that he and Norma Jean have ongoing issues that have been hidden and ignored for the majority of their marriage. The log cabin he never builds, the couple’s new hobbies, the baby they lost, the dust ruffle Mabel makes for them, and the trip they take to Shiloh ultimately cause Norma Jean to decide to leave Leroy. “Shiloh” is laden with symbols for the state of Norma Jean and Leroy’s marriage, and each situation introduced since Leroy’s accident forces them to look at how little they know about each other.
The house Leroy means to build but never does, is symbolic of how their marriage exists but they never really settle down and made it permanent. Their marriage never gets a solid foundation and Leroy believes the idea of having a house built would validate their marriage, and make it seem more authentic. The shaky foundation is revealed once Leroy gets into his accident and returns to being close to Norma Jean all the time. Also a key issue is the fact that Leroy not only holds onto the idea of building the log cabin someday, he repeatedly ignores Norma Jean when she tells him she really does not want that kind of house, but he keeps saying he will make it. He knows she doesn’t want it, “I’m aiming to build me a log house, soon as I get the time. My wife, though, I don’t think she likes the idea” (302), but he wants the idea of a place that expresses their marriage. Leroy and Norma Jean’s desires don’t sync up, and they fail to address that issue. Their lack of effective communication and productive problem solving is also a factor that leads the marriage to di...

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...on’s uses a layer of symbolism built into the events of the story that illustrate what is happening in Leeroy and Norma Jean’s marriage. “Shiloh” demonstrates that one has to communicate openly in order to have a healthy marriage, and acknowledging issues does not hurt a couple either. Another lesson to learn is that part of being human is that change will happen, however, everyone has a choice of whether they will internalize their knowledge and fear change like Leeroy, or experience the world, make change a positive thing and flourish like Norma Jean did. It was not easy for her or comfortable, but sometimes recognizing that situations are harmful and moving towards more beneficial ones requires an unpleasant view.

Work Cited

Mason, Bobbie Ann. “Shiloh.” Literature: A Pocket Anthology.
Ed. R.S. Gwynn. 4th ed. New York: Penguin-Longman, 2009. 300-313.

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