Throughout the short story “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason the reader gets a sense of many different relationship problems. Leroy is a truck driver and is rarely home. He is injured when his truck jackknifes and he is forced to get a steel pin in his hip. This does not only hinder his life but his wife, Norma Jean, now must alter her lifestyle. They have grown accustom to never being together and this drastic change is forced upon them it puts a strain on their relationship. Norma Jean’s mother is very persistent on sending them to Shiloh as a sort of second honeymoon.
The background behind Shiloh gives the reader an incidental meaning. Shiloh is used as the title along with an underlining comparative theme for all the traits that marriage encompasses. The main comparison that is made between the battle of Shiloh and their marriage is the on-going battle. Although it is never directly said the reader gets a hint that Norma Jean is fighting the conformity of marriage and is becoming more and more independent. The women’s rights movement was a big part of this time period.
She never goes on strike in a large gathered group but strikes by herself by claiming her independence. Your name means ‘the king,” Norma Jean says…she is reading a book about another century… ?“Am I still the king around here? ” ?Norma Jean flexes her biceps and feels them for hardness. “I’m not fooling around with anybody, if that’s what you mean …” This quote exchanged by Norma Jean and Leroy near the end of the story is quite ironic. Leroy is a pothead without a job and comes off as anything but a king. It shows that Norma Jean is showing off her education as well as her physical strength over Leroy. Pain through out the story is another connection to this battle. Physical death is present in both the battle and the couple’s life.
Randy, Norma and Leroy’s son, dies after only four months. This tragedy follows Leroy and Norma Jean around, as they never speak of it. Leroy would often find himself telling his life to hitchhikers that he would pick up and conclude his life with a question, “what do you think? ” He begins to hear how self-pitying he has become. Leroy’s mind wanders when he sees kids that would be around Randy’s age. He also sees Randy when he sees Mabel. She believes that his death was a mockery toward her due to the fact that she was opposed to the teenage marriage from the beginning.
Even when they believe Norma Jean’s mother is taking a jab at them when she tells a story of a dog killing a baby they refuse to mention his name. This tragic event has left this couple is an awkward discomfort. The story changes from Leroy being happy that such a loss didn’t ruin their marriage, as he has heard. By the end it becomes clear that it affects both of them as it does to most couples. The final connecting piece is not so much about the battle of Shiloh but a structure that resides there, the log cabin. The cabin is the one thing that Leroy dreams of building for his wife.
To him this cabin symbolizes his marriage. The cabin is an awful idea in the eyes of almost everyone due to its impracticality and it doesn’t even remotely interest Norma Jean. No matter what is said to deter him from his dream he cannot be dissuades him. He is told that it is uncomfortable, new developments wouldn’t permit such a house, and the sheer cost will never allow his dream to become reality. Just as Leroy refuses to give up on the cabin and the same goes for his marriage. At Shiloh they see an original cabin. Leroy exclaims, “That’s not the kind of log house I’ve got in mind,” but its just that… logs.
No matter what he says about it to try to convince anyone including himself it’s just an empty box. It is now clear to Leroy that that is his marriage, empty. It is too late to try to save it and his dream of the cabin begins to crumble along with his marriage as Norma Jean states “I want to leave you. ” Their relationship has been anything but normal since they have been together. As the chance of normalcy is finally becoming more plausible when Leroy comes home he finds that the love he feels for Norma Jean is not returned. Mable is very persistent of the idea that the young couple travels to Shiloh almost as a second honeymoon.
Norma Jean is shocked and appalled with this but in the end agrees to go. Mable sees Shiloh as the place that re-kindled her love with her husband and hopes it will do the same for her daughter. But for this couple this historic place displays everything that is wrong with their marriage and triggers the worst. Norma Jean states that she wants to leave Leroy in a hope to become even more independent. Leroy doesn’t even seem phased and responds by saying “no, you don’t. ” But in the end he knew all along that her love never really belonged to him. Shiloh was the end of so many back in 1862 and now it would claim their marriage.
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