What is it like to be free? Bobbie Ann Mason, the author of Shiloh puts NormaJean Moffitt through different tests in her life before she can find her freedom. Masonintroduces us to a character who yearns to be free from her husband and mother.Throughout Norma Jeans life she has dealt with many difficult and trying times thatsometimes may not make sense to her and finally this thirty-four-year-old woman is readyto spread her wings; fly away and see what it is like to be free.Throughout the story, Norma Jeans desire to be free is evident in tasks that she istaking on that she would not normally do, leaving her mother and husband blind to thefact that change is coming. Norma begins taking a bodybuilding class, an Englishcomposition class and a course in cooking exotic foods. These changes in Normas lifeare evident to the reader that she is trying to rediscover herself and find her sense ofidentity. Her husband Leroy takes notice late in the story to this situation and does notunderstand why she is going through all of these classes.
In a conversation with Mabel,the mother of Norma, she explains to Leroy that Norma Jean just is not used to havinghim home. The classes are giving Norma the space she had while Leroy was working, butthey are also the tools she needs to distance herself from Leroy and Mabel.Not only does Norma Jean want to in a sense fly away from her clueless husbandbut an overprotective mother keeps Normas eyes on the sky. As mentioned earlierNorma is thirty-four. Still her mother, Mabel is watching every move she makes.
Oneday Norma is in her house with the door closed and in comes Mabel catching herdaughter smoking a cigarette. Norma is found later crying to Leroy how her privacy wasinvaded by her mother. Norma and Leroy lost a baby when they were eighteen years olddue to SIDS. When Mabel hears of a story of neglect, she confronts her daughter andaccuses her for the death of their child because she smokes. This violation of privacy andspace brings Norma down but does lift her up and she realizes that something needs toThe character and strength of Norma are challenged by Leroy and Mabelthroughout the story. Norma has to adjust her lifestyle to accommodate Leroy whom sheis not used to living with.
She does not want the same things in life as he does. He wouldrather a quiet rural area with a log cabin and she wants to be with the crowd and wantsnothing to do with Leroys cabin. When it is mentioned that the two go to Shiloh, it issuggested that Mabel accompany them. Mabel says how she would not want to invade ahoneymoon and Norma angrily asks Who is going on a honeymoon, for Christs sake(980). Mabel immediately comes down on her daughter saying that she did not raise herto speak with that tone of voice and Normas reply is that she has not seen anything yet.This scene is the foreshadowing of the climax.
Norma is right, they have not seenanything yet, nor have they seen anything ever. They have been blind to her happiness allNorma Jean is given some massive dilemmas to act upon. Should she stay marriedto her husband and his pipe dreams? Can she stand to have her life examined andquestioned by her mother? It is at the end of the story that a decision to leave is finallymade. Leroy and Norma go on a little trip to Shiloh, a Civil War battlefield. After the twohave a picnic they get into an argument She wont leave me alone, you wont leave mealone, I feel eighteen again (982).
Norma tried throughout the story to get away from herproblems by avoiding her mother and husband but it just was not enough. She needed tobe free from all her worries and the two people that were holding her down. Norma Jeanleft her husband that day at Shiloh and nothing could stop her.The meaning of freedom may have different meanings from person to person.
Being free is often overlooked by many people today. The major theme in Shiloh isconflict with Norma Jeans wanting freedom and a new way of life while her husbandLeroy and mother Mabel hold her back. Norma is tired of living a sheltered andoverprotective life and no one can see that fact. However, she always keeps an eye on thesky. When Norma does finally get the strength she needs and her emotional wounds arehealed she leaves Leroy and Mabel with a broken wing but strong heart and takes off intoa new world of freedom where she can carry out her dreams.Bibliography: