Shiloh, By Bobbie Ann Mason Essay, Research Paper
19 April 2001
Bobbie Ann Mason, Great Writer?
In the short story titled “Shiloh”, Bobbie Ann Mason does an extremely effective job of getting her message across. This story is about a couple that gets married a young age that probably was not ready to be married. They experience a series of events, which shape them and determined there future. The author in this story does a fabulous job because this story was easy to read and understand. “Shiloh” was written in 1982 so the story plot isn’t old and hard to grasp. It is set in recent times and features common people. Mason presents problems that people can relate to and identify with. She shows that staying in comfortable situations isn’t always the best thing to do; sometimes you should go out of your shell and experience some kind of growth or change.
“Shiloh” was written in 1982. Is set in the Kentucky backwoods, and uses characters that are vividly portrayed so the reader can feel like they know everything about them. The characters are common people from a small town. Mason does a great job of putting these elements together to capture the reader’s attention. She is writing for a large audience and is efficient at drawing their attention. The target audience is the lower to middle class, and she inserts entities into the story that they can relate to. For example the character Leroy who is a truck driver, “likes to lie on the couch and smoke a joint”, and Norma Jean, “works at the Rexall drugstore”. These people are average people and a large section of society can easily relate to them.
Mason uses the characters to present problems and conflict that are central to the American society. The problems that are examined in this story are very prevalent in our culture. Dysfunctional marriages/relationships and identity problems are some of the main problems that occur with Leroy and Norma Jean. During the time period when this story was written there was a big movement in our culture for change. This development was called the women’s rights movement. As Mason states, “Something is happening. Norma Jean is going to night school. She has graduated from her six-week body-building course and now is talking an adult-education course in composition at Paducah Com. College.” With the changing times in society women were gaining more opportunity to excel. Theirs roles were changing from housewife to independent beings. During the 80’s this was a predicament that many families had to deal with. Mason does a great job of presenting problems people can relate to and identify. She sheds light on important moral issues while capturing the reader’s imaginations.
Norma Jean is used to show how growth can cause tremendous change for the better. As Norma Jean was growing up her mother was always over bearing and critical towards her. Norma Jean and her husband Leroy had a baby when they were younger, and “Mabel (the Mother) has never really forgiven him for disgracing her by getting Norma Jean pregnant. When the baby died she said that was fate mocking her.” Also Mabel didn’t catch Norma Jean smoking till she was 34. From these situations we can conclude that Norma Jean is afraid to have conflict and has been controlled her whole life. She is afraid to be individual from her mother’s points of view. With all the commotion in Norma Jeans’s life she starts to look for answers of how to change or better her situation. “’She won’t leave me alone-you won’t leave me alone. I feel eighteen again. I can’t face that over again.’ She starts walking away.” This quote comes from the end of the story. Mason is trying to show that it is possible to change your situation even though it seems bleak. No one knows that if Norma Jean leaves the relationship that her life will be better. During this period, many women stayed in bad relationships just for the mere fact that they didn’t know what they would do if they got out of the relationship and moved on. It is a hard thing to do, but if it is the best option it is better to start over new than linger on the past. Putting this predicament in a story so people could identify, makes it easier for individuals to take action. They gain a sense that they are not the only one dealing with a particular issue.
“Shiloh” was written as a tool to present issues and give the reader a glimpse into the tribulations of everyday life that the characters where presented. When writing this story Mason uses incredible descriptions with many details to grab hold of the reader. Along the way she presents dilemmas that are central to our society and addressed them. “Shiloh” is a wonderful piece of literature that is effective in capturing audience’s attention and presenting solutions to common problems.