Shiloh


Good bye Norma Jean

The death of an infant can modify one?s characteristic and psychological behavior to the point of suicide. In Bobbie Ann Mason?s "Shiloh" she leaves the ending of the story for her readers to draw their own conclusion of how Norma Jean leaves her husband Leroy. Most readers see her divorcing Leroy and starting a new life as an independent woman (Cooke 196 par.1). When in fact, this is a story about a bereaved mother who at the end, takes her own life due to the guilt over her child?s death.
There are many clues to lead to the fact she took her own life. I found it interesting Bobbie Ann Mason gave the character the name Norma Jean. Norma Jean was also the real name of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe?s depression and inability to find lasting happiness resulted in psychological disorders with the end result of her taking her own life.
The character Norma Jean fits all the psychological characteristics of behavior change in mothers who are coping with life after losing their child to sudden infant death syndrome. The most common symptoms are anxiety and depression (Boyle 933 par.1). She is always trying to stay busy. First she decided to build her own body up. She goes to the gym or does exercises around the house whenever she is home. Second she decided to take night classes at her local community college. She comes home and writes essays of stories she has read. She never seems to be in a relaxed state of being. These are signs of anxiety. The definition of anxiety is uneasiness. She can?t decide what she wants to do with herself. There are many reasons for her depression. She is trying to cope with the death of her child, her empty marriage to Leroy and her less than supportive mother.
The death of her child occurred while she and Leroy were watching a movie at a drive in theater. Her child then four months old was in the back seat. Studies have shown the amount of guilt a parent places upon themselves leads to emotional, psychological, and social consequences (Boyle 933 par 5). The relationship between the two parents becomes difficult to manage and needs tremendous care and guidance to maintain (Boyle 933 par 10). Of all the deaths a person might encounter, the death of a child is very traumatic and likely to lead to most severe consequences. It is reasonable to anticipate that families who lose children from SIDS will manifest some or all of a range of mental health problems. Grief has been described as involving shock and numbness, feelings of searching and yearning, disorganization (depression), and reorientation (Boyle 933 par 15).
Leroy, a long-distance trucker who has spent most of his time on the road since the death of their child, has come home to stay after a highway accident that has wrecked his rig and left him thinking he is incapable of driving again. Norma Jean was accustomed to him being gone all the time and preferred it. "In some ways, a woman prefers a man who wanders" (Charters 973 par. 11). She never complained about his traveling. Leroy is a character who prefers to get high, lay around on the couch and think about building a log cabin for his wife. He believes he can rebuild his marriage with Norma Jean and try to regain the relationship they had before the death of their son. Norma Jean sees this man as someone with no ambition to better his self. Her marriage to him from the beginning was due to her pregnancy. I believe she has felt trapped into this marriage from the start. As she was playing tunes from a sixties songbook she said, " I didn?t like these old songs back then," she said. "But I have this crazy feeling I missed something." (Charters 965 par 6). She married at 18 and had her son a couple of months later. I believe that Bobbie Ann Mason was stating that she missed her teenage years. She had to mature quickly with a husband and baby on the way. She had to take on responsibilities I believe she was not prepared for.
Mabel is Norma Jean?s mother. She is very critical of Norma Jean. When she comes over to visit, which