Overcoming Tragedies Essay

We all experience grief in our lives. In the short story “Shiloh”, Bobbie Ann Mason’s narrator introduces us to a young couple struggling with their relationship. They start out as a happily married couple who experience many tragedies in their lives which eventually leads to Norma Jean wanting a divorce from her husband, Leroy. This couple reaches a crossroad in their marriage. Norma Jean is a round character, who shows change throughout the narrative. For example she is working out to improve the appearance of her body, going to school to increase her career options, and she wants to leave her husband, Leroy.

We see how life changes as time passes (616-25). For most individuals, working out and improving the look of their body is a good thing; but, in “Shiloh,” this means that Norma Jean is looking for someone other than her husband, Leroy. “Leroy Moffit’s wife, Norma Jean, is working on her pectorals. She lifts three-pound dumbbells to warm up, then progresses to a twenty-pound barbell, standing with her legs apart, she reminds Leroy of Wonder Woman” (616), we learn this furthermore proves that Norma Jean is trying to improve the look of her body to appeal to someone other than her husband Leroy.

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Moreover, “Leroy is a truck driver. He injured his leg in a highway accident four months ago, and his physical therapy, which involves weights and a pulley, prompted Norma Jean to try building herself up. Now she is attending a body-building class” (616-17). Before the short story opens, Norma Jean played a traditional feminine role, keeping the home fires burning and plying her husband with food and entertainment when he returned from his long trips. When the narrative begins, she is scraping under the burden of her wifely duties. Leroy’s presence weighs on her.

After so much time spent away, he seems like a stranger, someone who does not understand her. She has begun to improve her mind and her body, taking weightlifting classes and eating healthily. Norma Jean undergoes a transformation during the course of “Shiloh,” changing from a stunted housewife into a woman taking steps toward complete independence. Norma Jean is going back to school to increase her career options and better her life, a life where she is no longer working at Rexall drugstore and where she is no longer married to her husband, Leroy. In the short story, he narrator describes the connection between Leroy and Norma Jean and also where Norma Jean works: Norma Jean works at Rexall drugstore, and she has acquired an amazing amount of information about cosmetics. When she explains to Leroy the three stages of complexion care, involving creams, toners, and moisturizers, he thinks happily of other petroleum products-axle grease, diesel fuel.

This is a connection between Norma Jean and Leroy. (617) As the narrative progresses, she enrolls in night school and stays up late studying instead of going to bed early, as she used to do. Something is happening” that does not make sense to Leroy (622). We learn that “Norma Jean is going to night school. She has graduated from her six-week body-building class and now she is taking an adult-education course in composition at Paducah Community College. She spends her evenings outlining paragraphs” (622). This is another change that Norma Jean is making. “Norma Jean used to say, ‘If I lose ten minutes’ sleep, I just drag all day. ’ Now she stays up late, writing compositions” (622). Far from portraying this transformation as a smooth forward movement, the narrator stresses Norma Jean’s confusion and self-doubt.

She tackles night school but writes essays about casseroles, a symbol of her former existence as a simple housewife. She admits to Leroy that she might not tell him if she were having an affair (621), this is not the only change Norma Jean shows. Research has shown that whenever a couple loses a child, the loss of that child breaks their marriage apart. Norma Jean and Leroy have been through several tragedies and are surprised that they are still together. Unfortunately, towards the end of the short story, Norma Jean decides that she wants to leave her husband. “Without looking at Leroy, she says, ‘I want to leave you’” (624).

She confusedly traces the change back to the day her mother caught her smoking, says she does not want to feel like a child anymore, and decides that she was unhappy even before the smoking incident. In the end, she says she does not know what she means. Norma Jean gets up from the blanket and walks toward the river. She “has reached the bluff, and she is looking out over the Tennessee River. 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. The sky is unusually pale-the color of the dust ruffle Mabel [Norma Jean’s mom] made for their bed” (625).

Leroy cannot believe that Norma Jean has made such a drastic change. She makes great gains during the course of the story, but the process of self-discovery is slow, painful, and unfinished. Norma Jean is a round character who shows change throughout the short story. We all experience grief in our lives. In the short story “Shiloh,” Mason introduces us to a young couple struggling with their relationship. This couple reaches a crossroad in their marriage. Norma Jean undergoes a transformation during the course of “Shiloh,” changing from a stunted housewife into a woman taking steps toward complete independence.

Far from portraying this transformation as a smooth forward movement, the text stresses Norma Jean’s confusion and self-doubt. She tackles night school but writes essays about casseroles, a symbol of her former existence as a simple housewife. Towards the end of the short story, Norma Jean decides that she wants to leave her husband. Norma Jean is a round character, who shows change throughout the narrative. For example she is working out to improve the appearance of her body, going to school to increase her career options, and she wants to leave her husband, Leroy. We see how life changes as time passes (616-25).

Works Cited

Mason, Bobbie Ann. “Shiloh.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Ed. Dana Gioia. 12. Boston, et al: Pearson, 2013. 616-25. Print.