“Shiloh,” by Bobby Ann Mason is a disheartening story that makes marriage seem like an awful commitment to get into at an early age because one never knows what life is going to throw at you. Leroy is truck driver who has been put out of his job after a truck driving incident and returns home to reunite with his wife Norma Jean . Norma has grown to living without Leroy and soon discovers she does not enjoy his constant company.
Eventually Norma wants to their marriage to end because of numerous differences that she cannot overcome unless she moves out.
She is sick of the mockery she has to take from her mother for becoming pregnant with Leroy when she was eighteen. She also cannot stand the regret of her child’s death and is constantly reminded with Leroy always being around. It strikes me how Mason uses this story to relate to real life marriages and it makes me think of how many of my friends have divorced parents and made me remember of the friends I had in high school that were already getting married at such a young age.
Some because of an unexpected pregnancy and others because of blind love.
This story makes me realize that people usually get divorced because of life events that change the environment of the whole relationship. Mason uses symbolism and fictional realism to a great view on typical worn out marriages today. Leroy’s relationship Norma was always shaky from the beginning.
Because of marrying at a young age their relationship had more time to go through social events that made them eventually disconnect with each other. The worst event they went through that initially corrupted their marriage was the death of their child.
This traumatic event made the relationship empty and hopeless of prosperity. Leroy moving back in changed the way Norma Jean wanted to live her life. “He injured his leg in a highway accident four months ago, and his physical therapy, which involves weights and a pulley, prompted Norma Jean to try building herself up. ” (67) The accident that keeps Leroy at home forces Norma Jean to confront him and opens her eyes to the emptiness of a marriage made tolerable only by his frequent absence. I think Norma Jean was only still in the relationship because Leroy was always one but now that he has settled into the nest, she is ready to fly away. She begins building herself up because she does not like the way things are starting to look around her. She begins to see herself in a new light, perhaps rediscovering the youth that she lost when thrown into adulthood at eighteen. She realizes she does not want to continue this loveless marriage. “ Before his accident, when Leroy came home he used to stay in the house with Norma Jean, watching TV in bed and playing cards. She would cook fried chicken, picnic ham, chocolate pie- all his favorites.
Now he is home alone much of the time. ” (71). Many relationships end up happening this way because of life changes. Just recently my aunt divorced my uncle after twenty five years of marriage. This happened almost a year after their son moved out. It seemed to me that the dull and tired relationship was only being held together by their child. Now that the child has moved on the relationship turned out to be empty as well. Mason also makes a point that nothing stays the same in relationships and in life in general. Life always throws something at you that you don’t expect.
Sometimes you can go with the flow, but sometimes it boils over. Leroy’s always had a job and always provided but was rarely at home. This has been going on so long that Norma Jean has adapted and formed her life around it. This reminds me of my cousin’s and his ex-wife’s relationship. He lives in Georgia and married his high school sweetheart. He couldn’t go to college because he had children at a young age. He was always a hard worker and provided for his family. From an outside appearance their marriage with children and the big house seemed perfect.
Unfortunately when the recession hit he lost almost everything. His wife left him and he doesn’t understand why. Leroy and Norma Jean also dealt with the same separation that my cousin’s family dealt with. Norma Jean was so used to Leroy being away at work that she could not handle the event of him coming back and living together Mason uses a lot of symbolic references to pronounce the ending of Leroy and Norma Jean’s marriage. The greatest symbolism of the story would have to be the trip to Shiloh, a battlefield.
It is the place that Mabel wants Leroy to take Norma Jean because it is where she had her honeymoon. Really she knows it is a place where there was great suffering and a finalization to a battle that ends suffering and was never meant to be. Norma Jean begins to realize why her mother wanted them to go to Shiloh. She finally gets the confidence to tell Leroy what she wants. She knows nothing can keep her in the relationship any longer. She walks away from the whole matter at the end and puts her arms out, Leroy knows he can not stop her from flying away.
After telling her husband Leroy that she wants to leave him, Norma Jean walks quickly towards the Tennessee River at Shiloh, pursued by the limping Leroy. “ Leroy gets up to follow his wife, but his good leg is asleep and his bad leg still hurts him. Norma Jean is far away, walking rapidly toward the bluff by the river, and he tries to hobble towards her. ”(76) Mason shows at the end that Leroy is literally and symbolically unable to keep up with her. Bobby Ann Mason shows us just what relationships turn into after it has been put through life events that can change the entire environment of a relationship.
Mason uses symbolism to show to the reader how empty the relationship between Leroy and Norma really is. He shows how lives and relationships change. Some times by one’s choice and some time by uncontrollable events. I know more than one relationship that can relate to the one in the story. I believe Lives and relationships are not controlled by ones dreams but by unforeseen fate.
Mason, Bobbie Ann. “Shiloh,” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Robert DiYanni. McGraw-Hill, 2007. 67-76. Print.
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