The title story of the collection, Shiloh and Other Stories, is typical of the development of Mason's characters throughout the volume. In "Shiloh," Leroy Moffit has suffered a leg injury which has curtailed his career as a truck driver. He and his wife, Norma Jean, live in a small, nondescript house in Kentucky, while he pursues dreams of building a log cabin for himself and his wife. Norma Jean embarks on a course of self-improvement, pursuing programs in everything from physical fitness to English composition. Like many of Mason's characters, Norma Jean's aspirations for individual development appear somewhat naive and limited; however, they do have real consequences.
Norma Jean's mother has constantly urged Norma Jean and Leroy to visit the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh, the site of her own honeymoon, and when they do visit the site, partly to escape from their own disintegrating relationship, Norma Jean announces that she is leaving Leroy. Typical of Mason's characters, this breakdown seems both inevitable and pathetic. Neither is able to grow in the present circumstances, yet Leroy is unable to formulate the means to make their relationship a ground for real individual development.
Much the same dilemma is faced by the older couple Mary Lou and Mack Skaggs in "Rookers." While Mary Lou plays cards with older women friends and socializes in town, Mack stays home with the woodworking projects that are both his livelihood and his refuge from the world. He tries to read to keep up with their daughter who is away at college, but when she comes home before her exams,...
(The entire section is 653 words.)
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Mabel Beasley is Norma Jean's mother and Leroy's mother-in-law. She lives near the Moffitts and often comes over to their house. She frequently enters without knocking and one day surprises Norma Jean and catches her smoking a cigarette. Mabel was displeased when Leroy got Norma Jean pregnant and saw the death of their son as a sort of divine retribution. She lets Norma Jean know that she blames her for the baby's death by telling her a story about a baby who died because of a negligent mother. When she was a bride, Mabel and her husband visited the Shiloh battlefield. She now wants Leroy and Norma Jean to take a trip to Shiloh in hopes that the visit will help them fix the problems in their marriage.
Stevie Hamilton is the teenaged son of a prominent doctor in Leroy and Norma Jean's town. He is also a drug pusher who supplies Leroy with drugs. When Leroy obtains marijuana from him, the occasion prompts him to reminisce about his own lost son, who would have been about Stevie's age.
Leroy Moffitt is a disabled trucker living with his wife, Norma Jean, in western Kentucky. The story is told from Leroy's point of view; therefore, readers learn only what he is thinking. After his truck accident, Leroy stays at home, smokes marijuana, and makes things from craft kits. Although Leroy gets along with his mother-in-law by joking with her, he feels that "Mabel has never really forgiven him for disgracing her...
(The entire section is 616 words.)