What first struck me about the poetry of Langston Hughes, Robert Frost and the short
story “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason is how they address three questions that seem to
dog people as they move through life. Those questions being; who am I? How did I get
here and can I recapture my youth?
Can you be young again? Bobbie Ann Mason seems to think so. This becomes obvious
as she details the changes in the lives of Norma Jean and her husband Leroy. In “Shiloh”
Leroy Moffit and his wife, Norma Jean, display changing personality traits that eventually
result in the end of their relationship. Leroy’s character is a sad man who seems to lack
the ability to change or grow with his wife in the story. Norma Jean on the other hand,
represents a women who recognizes that she isn‘t where she wants to be in life and seizes
the opportunity to reinvent herself.
What I found particularly interesting was the flip-flop of traditional male female roles.
Norma Jean spends her days supporting them both by working at the local drugstore
while Leroy stays at home complaining about dirty dishes and watching TV. Leroy
decorates their home with models that he has made and his role continues to become even
more non-traditional as he learns to sew pillows and has long talks with his mother in
law. In addition, the emotions typically associated as male and female are switched with
Norma Jean becoming the unresponsive half of the duo who takes on an exercise program
that includes weight lifting, an activity typically demonstrated by men.
Another factor leading to the end of Leroy and Norma’s marriage is the struggle between
the past and moving on to the future. An excellent example of Leroy’s unwillingness to
give up the past is his desire to build a log cabin instead of a new house. Norma Jean
takes night classes at the local community college and lift weights, which...