Bobbie Ann Mason has created a great character in the story titled Shiloh. If one is familiar with the author’s biography, he/she will notice that this work is the reflection of Mason’s perception of the woman’s life in the world. The writer was born in Kentucky in 1940; at that time, the female’s role in the society was less significant than today. Mason liked her childhood years on the farm, but, even being a kid, she could realize that the women’s life is less interesting and amazing compared to the men’s one. They give birth to children, do the entire job around the house and work in stores, schools or factories (Booth and Mays 112). The writer believed that a woman should not be captured by a routine life; thus, she decided to obtain good education. She moved in New York and started studying literature. Her dissertation was an obvious reflection of her feministic views and her attitude to the woman’s place in the society.
Shiloh is one of the first stories that were published in 1982. In it, Manson illustrates the woman’s life and the challenges that she tries to cope with. The main character of the work is Norma Jean who changes her life from a housewife to an independent person. This significant transformation is caused by three main problems that occur with her: her marriage, her son’s death, and her overbearing mother.
The first reason of the change is her marriage and the way she sees it. Her family life is difficult to call a perfect one, especially if one takes into account that her husband does not spend much time with his wife. The marriage is a total routine for her. It is the life that the majority of women have and hate, though only few decide to make a difference. However, Norma Jeans brings about the changes in her life, and the first step is the fact that “now she is attending a body-building class” (Mason 8). This decision means that she wants to alter her life and starts from her appearance. Moreover, Norma begins cooking exotic food and spends more time writing music. She embarks on creating a new person she has always wanted to be.
The second reason is her son’s death. The boy died when he was four months old; the doctors said that he had the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Norma and her husband never talk about what they feel about this loss, though each of them realizes that it has changed their marriage. Many families become ruined if parents lose their children, but in this case, the accident does not change the marriage for worse; at least, each of them believes in it. However, the baby’s death has created a gap between Norma and her husband since it is the problem they never discuss trying to hide their true feelings about it (Price 92). It leads to secretiveness and make them grow apart.
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The third reason is her overbearing mother who still dictates the way the woman should live. Norma believes that the mother’s behavior is the reason of her son’s death. The point of no return is the situation when Mabel catches Norma while the latter is smoking. “She says she feels like she’s eighteen, which she hates” (Mason 7). Probably, it becomes the last straw that makes Norma understand that her marriage is a waste of time, and she must leave her husband.
To sum up, it can be said that Norma Jean illustrates the character of a woman who makes a decision to change her way of life. This step was not made spontaneously; the decision was influenced by three significant points in her life. The biggest contribution to the transformation was probably her son’s death. After it, her marriage as well as the relations with her mother changed. The character of Norma Jean is an attempt to demonstrate that a woman is a strong and independent individual who is able to make a complicated decision and accept the necessary changes in order to make her life better than it was yesterday.