At the end of the book, Marty comments “…and I’m thinking how nothing is as simple as you guess-not right or wrong, not Judd Travers, not even me or this dog I got here. But the good part is I saved Shiloh and opened my eyes some. Now that ain’t bad for eleven.” I believe that the significance of this statement is simply that Marty has learned that life is not easy. He has, up until this point, observed life as a child; however, finding Shiloh and having to fight for him has opened his eyes to the fact that, even if you are a child, things are not always as simple as they seem. Right is not always right and wrong is not always wrong, but no matter what, some things are worth fighting for. For Marty, that something was Shiloh, and he realizes that, for an eleven-year-old that is a pretty mature conclusion to reach.
The final line of Bobbie Ann Mason's much-anthologized short story "Shiloh," is: ""They were moving like this along the beach, crunching the fragments of skeletons."
It is a ending that recalls all the pair have gone through in the past: the grief, the losses, the hurt, the anger. Mickey has left his family and his future with Donna does not seem all that sound, since it has such an inauspicious foundation. As the two "crunch the fragments of skeletons" on the beach, the symbolism of the crushed lives, and perhaps even the death of everyone who lives, comes uncomfortably to mind.