Shiloh Questions and Answers
by Bobbie Ann Mason

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Divorce, ethnic identity, and feminism are issues and concepts that are commonplace in our 21st Century America, but that wasn't always the case. How do these issues arise in Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh"? How do you process the material, and what parallels exist between these works and our country as we know it in 2020?

Divorce, feminism, and ethnic identify are some of the social constructs present in Bobbie Ann Mason’s "Shiloh." The dynamic between Norma Jean and Leroy shows how feminism can subvert traditional gender norms in the context of marriage, and Mabel's conservative views show ethnic identity is still an important dimension of life in certain regions of the South.

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Divorce, feminism, and ethnic identity are some of the social constructs present in Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh. These ideas can be traced in the collection’s title story, “Shiloh.” This story of a struggling married couple shows how beliefs change over time. In particular, the story shows how long-held traditions in the South are subject to change, for both a family and for the culture more broadly.

When considering the question, one must think about context. The story is set in a small town in the south in the 1980s. Often referred to as the “Bible belt,” this is a region where family life is determined by conservative Christian views. Norma Jean reflects the growing change in beliefs and identity in the South.

According to a traditional view of marriage, men are to be providers, while women are to take care of the home. The character of Norma Jean subverts these expectations by working and going to school. In juxtaposition, Leroy does not uphold these expectations either:...

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