Shiloh by Bobbie Ann Mason

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This research will begin with the statement that the short story ‘Shiloh’, by Bobbie Ann Mason revolves around the life of Leroy and Norma Jean. Leroy, a truck driver is at home after an accident and is unsure on what to do next. Their marriage is put to test during this challenging situation. Shiloh a place in Tennessee was one of the areas that suffered heavy casualties during the American Civil War. The battle was a complex one and in the end, despite the victory of the Union Forces, there were no winners because of the huge number of fatalities. The writer’s choice of the title of the story is interesting because the marriage between Leroy and Norma is now like a ‘battle’ and it aptly describes the complexities of the marriage that they both currently face. The battleground of Sihloh is very relevant to the theme of the story. Norma Jean’s internal battle is evident throughout the story. Her struggle to cope up with the life with Leroy, not that he is always at home is a battle in itself. She tries to escape this battle through various activities such as body-building and attending composition classes. After a point, this internal battle was so intense that, Now she stays up late, writing compositions and She doesn’t play the organ anymore, though her second paper was called, Why Music is Important to me. For Leroy also it is a constant internal battle as he struggles on what he should do next. He wants to build the house, but he cannot do it alone as evident when he says, You and me together could lift those logs. It is just like lifting weights (Mason 9). While Leroy says Don’t worry, I’ll do something (Mason 11), there is a deep sense of uncertainty indicating the internal battle that he is undergoing. The backdrop of the American Civil War in the story also adds to the idea of internal conflict and battle. The characters of the story are also vaguely representative of the parties involved in the battle of Shiloh. Norma Jean, represents rebellion, just like the Confederates, where as Leroy’s character is reminiscent of the status quo attitude of Union.The location Shiloh, in a way, becomes the pivot around which the story is weaved. While for Mabel, Shiloh represents a solution and hope, I always thought Shiloh was the prettiest place, so full of history (13) Leroy too thinks that visiting the place would help them in resolving the issues. However, once they reach the place and sit near the cemetery, Norma Jean is able to communicate her thought of leaving him. Hence, for her, it becomes a location of self-realization. Shiloh also represents the realization for Leroy as he thinks that how he has evaded the workings of a marriage, just like he usually leaves the inside details of any history related event. The main location in Shiloh is a cemetery, where the dead people from the Civil war have been buried. Hence, Shiloh could signify the place where the marriage between Leroy and Norma Jean meets its end. Mason could have intended to set the milieu of her story in a place where the relationship gets destructed, just like how thousands of lives were destroyed in the same place during the Civil War. The symbolism of the unusually pale sky is not one of hope or promise. However, another perspective would be to look at Shiloh as a place where healing happens. People visit a cemetery not just to remember the dead, but also to seek solace when they being to heal from the trauma of the death of their loved ones. Hence, it can also signify a new beginning – something which the end of the story gives an indication about Now she turns toward Leroy and waves her arms. Is she beckoning to him? She seems to be doing an exercise for her chest muscles (Mason 16). Hence, Shiloh also becomes a metaphor for rebirth and new beginnings. Just like the battle of Shiloh, there are now winners in the story of Leroh and Norma Jean, making it an appropriate title for this story. By choosing a