Shiloh Essay, Research Paper
September 28, 2000
?Shiloh? ? And Norma Jean
?Shiloh? by Bobbie Ann Mason represents a change over the course of a young woman?s life. Bobbie Ann Mason uses Norma Jean to help clarify that relationships can fail and that roles do change in today?s relationships. Mason uses the character Norma Jean to give her audience an idea how times have changed as well as people. Norma Jean, who was forced to marry at a young age, sees a new path as the modern days draw near. Norma Jean is a woman who has very low confidence, very dependent on her mother, her husband, and is motivated to change her life. As time passes, she begins to change from being dependent on everyone to a woman who is very independent and gains confidence in herself.
Norma Jean has many traumatic events in her life. At the age of eighteen, she was pregnant and was forced to marry Leroy, the baby?s father, because of ?southern traditions?. When the baby, Randy, was four months and three days, Randy died of sudden infant death syndrome, as Mable thinks Randy died of neglect. As they took Randy to the emergency room, the doctor told them, ?It just happens sometimes? (Mason 48). Here she was married to a man that she made a mistake with and lost the baby that brought them together. What would happen to them now? Would they stay together or would they go their own ways? On top of dealing with her husband, and the death of her child, Norma Jean?s mother is very controlling over her life. Norma Jean is often felt intimidated by her mother. When her mother visits, ?she inspects the closets and then the plants, informing Norma Jean when a plant is droopy or yellow? (Mason 48). When Norma Jean was thirty-four, her mother caught her smoking. Mabel does not like the fact that her daughter is smoking and she brings up a story about a dog that chewed the baby?s legs and is on trail for neglect. Later that night when Mabel leaves, Norma Jean tells Leroy ?She just said that about the baby because she caught me smoking. She?s trying to pay me back.? (Mason 52) Bobbie Ann Mason is using Norma Jean to show how relationships between her mother is becoming tense and is making Norma Jean realize how controlling her mother is over her life. Leroy is not doing anything to help the relationship between Norma Jean and her mother better. Mabel is sitting with Leroy and tells him ?I don?t know what is going on with that girl? (Mason 52). Mable wants to be controlling over Norma Jean, but Norma Jean wants her freedom.
Norma Jean is a typical American woman. She stays at home, while Leroy is away working, she cleans the house and cooks. She has no job, and no activity she can turn to until Leroy buys her an electric organ for Christmas. Norma Jean used to play the piano is high school. She told Leroy ?It don?t leave you, it?s like riding a bicycle.? (Mason 47) She bought a songbook and learned every tune in it. As she began to play, she cried, ?It?s an orchestra!? (Mason 47) she was so excited she had something she could do, she did not have to have anyone else, it was all her. At this point of her life, this is the only thing she can turn to. Leroy had an accident and injured his leg, now he stays at home all the time. Norma Jean begins to build her confidence level up. She realizes she doesn?t have to depend on Leroy, and now Leroy is dependent on her. Norma Jean got a job at a cosmetics counter, she begins to exercise, and begins to do things for herself. Her relationship between her and her husband begins to grow further apart. Leroy is staying at home while Norma Jean is off at work, exercising, and doing her own thing. She begins to get frustrated with Leroy and wants him to start looking for a job. She reads Leroy a list she has made, ?Things you could do,? (Mason 49) as she reads the list, he says, ?Don?t worry, I?ll do something.? (Mason 49)
The basic, overall changed that Norma Jean goes through is changing into a person that was very dependent on her husband, into a person who in very independent. She thought that she needed Leroy to pay the bills, and to have a job so that she could have a life. When Leroy was finally at home with her she got to see his true side, she came to a realization. Norma Jean finally realized that she did not need Leroy in her life in order for her to survive. She was a strong woman mentally. Norma Jean had graduated from a six-week bodybuilding course and now is taking an adult-education class at the local community college. To Leroy, she is intimidating him with the English lessons. Leroy asks, ?What are you doing this for, anyhow?? (Mason 52) as she shrugs, she says, ?It is something to do.? (Mason 52) The relationship between Norma Jean and Leroy is becoming non-existing. Since she has realized that she doesn?t need him, she is going out and making a life for herself. She felt that she had the power while she left Leroy at home while she went off to work. She is finally gaining the power she always wanted.
Although Norma Jean is motivated by the changing times, by herself, and by Leroy, Norma Jean?s and Leroy?s trip to Shiloh, seemed to bring Norma Jean to the truth. This trip brings Norma Jean to see the truth. She realizes that they are two different people. As they were sitting in silence staring at the cemetery, Norma Jean says, ?I want to leave you? (Mason 54). After silence Leroy finally says, ?No, you don?t? (Mason 54). Leroy is trying to deny it. He doesn?t want to face the fact that she is going to leave him. What will Leroy do? There is not going to be anyone to support him. Norma Jean wanted this change in her life for the longest time. She did not want to be in the ?woods? her whole life. Norma Jean did not want to die before it was too late. Shiloh helped her spread her wings and leave Leroy.
Mason?s character, Norma Jean, is a character that goes from an unconfident teenage mother to a confident woman who does not depend on a man. The relationships between Norma Jean and her husband, and mother make her realize that she does not have to be dependent on anyone. She has to be strong and make her own decisions. They were running her life and not Norma Jean. As she told Leroy at Shiloh, ?She won?t leave me alone-you won?t leave me alone. I feel eighteen again. I can?t face that all over again. No, it wasn?t fine. I don?t know what I am saying. Forget it.? (Mason 55)