Transformation Of The Main Characters In Shiloh By Bobbie Ann Mason

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Bobbie Ann Mason’s story “Shiloh” was giving an opening image that really suggests something about the transformation of the main characters. The struggling characters are trying to make sense of themselves and one another. What we see through the course of the story is both Leroy and Norma Jean changing. These changes may suggest the change in gender and gender roles. Change often causes uncertainty and instability, This later is the reason why both characters have an unstable marriage. We have a female character in the beginning of the story working out her pectorals, the physical transformation of fatty tissue into muscle. She is bettering herself, going back to school, working and leading the household. An independent woman that wants “more breathing space in her relationship with her man”.

Hints are given of Norma Jean’s journey for independence and this rebellion role against the traditional female. We also have a male character who has been disabled and now has to stay home. He is a passive character and also does crafts to waste time. Leroy tries to find stability in his household by insisting on “building a miniature log cabin”. Since Norma is the one working all the time, Leroy is the one who is at home all the time and now plays the role of a typical “stay home wife” while his actual wife is making the income. Although their physically not changing their genders, we do see a change in gender roles throughout the story.

Norma Jean is becoming this dominant role, traditionally taken by a male character. When we see what happens to Norma throughout the story we start to question what the intentions of the author is when talking about gender roles. Her interest in bodybuilding was awaken after her husband has injured his leg and now needs physical therapy to be able to lift weight. Norma Jean has found comfort in Bodybuilding being that her husband can’t physically help her. In today’s society, women that are participating in weightlifting and bodybuilding are considered strong independent women. Although it still remains largely a male dominated activity it continues to indicate extreme strength and power. The story starts and ends with the idea of power and where the power is placed. When Norma Jean tells her husband she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, during their getaway at Shiloh, she leaves him and then “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 idea of her giving attention to her chest muscles indicate an idea of strength and power a gesture normally done by men. Mason allows this change in gender role to show power in women.

As a reader we see that the traditional positions of the male and female characters are blurred and not so traditional. We have a marriage that is not quite working because both characters are not on the same page, both of them have changed and are serving a lost as well. This relates to the usual norms of today’s society.


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