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Critical Analysis of "shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason

Autor:   •  June 30, 2012  •  Case Study  •  1,036 Words (5 Pages)  •  3,708 Views

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Shiloh is a short story about a married couple living in Kentucky, who struggle both in their marriage and with themselves, and later learn that they have nothing left in common. The story is told from the point of view of the husband, Leroy Moffitt, who's a recently disabled truck driver that was injured in a trucking accident. Leroy, now unemployed, and stays at home while his wife, Norma Jean, works at the local drug store selling makeup. The couple, both thirty-four years old, have been married since the young age of eighteen as a result of an unplanned pregnancy. One of the main conflicts that the characters had that ultimately led to the demise of their marriage was their inadvertent role reversals.

Leroy, a sort of lovable loser, loses his identity when he is no longer the breadwinner in the house. Although he is well enough to start working again, he's still shaken up by his accident and doesn't want to go back to being a truck driver. Leroy can't tell what his wife feels for him, while she is "often startled" to see him at home, as well as being "disappointed" by the fact that he is. Norma Jean tries to encourage him to try a new career path, but he isn't interested in giving it a shot. The implication here is that she wants Leroy to be the typical male provider, which is something that he seemingly lacks the ability to be. Leroy sinks very comfortably into the bored housewife role, and even starts to occupy himself with craft kits and sewing needlepoint-hobbies that are stereotypically feminine.

Norma Jean, now the sole breadwinner, becomes emboldened by this and also engages in unconventional behavior. Norma's new obsession with weightlifting, generally a masculine sport associated with strength and power, signifies the shift of power in their marriage. Leroy is well aware that he is losing his dominance. These feelings are depicted when one evening Norma Jean mentions that his name, Leroy, means "king". Leroy jokes uncomfortably and asks her: Am I still king around here? Instead of answering his question, she gives him the description of her name; Norma comes from the word Normans, who were invaders. Ironically enough, Norma Jean has invaded Leroy's position as king in their household.

Even the emotions typically associated as male and female are switched with Norma Jean being the cold, unresponsive one in the relationship. The author's inconspicuous indication of this can also be perceived in the beginning of the story when Norma Jean asks Leroy to feel her arms muscles. She mentions that her left arm (the one closer to her heart) is weaker than the right, which may imply that her capacity for loving him is weak. Leroy, on the other hand, adores his wife and is a helpless romantic who daydreams about building a log cabin for him and her to live in. Leroy naively believes that in building a home for Norma Jean and going back to a simpler

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