What is the role reversal we see in this story? What is one way Norma Jean takes a male role and one way Leroy takes a female role? 

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jbiersach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Shiloh's" role reversals deliver a fresh approach to literary feminism.  Leroy is a 'beatiful loser'.  Not only does he fail to adjust to change, but his quixotic response to the changes in his life make readers pity Leroy. Leroy means well, but he is weak. That Norma Jean improves herself, makes her own change, and becomes the family breadwinner makes her a traditional feminist character.  But Mason offers deeper feminist possibilities when Norma Jean leaves Leroy the likable loser. Leroy has not been offensive, he is just a delusional 'loser' who needs help.  When Norma Jean leaves Leroy, she frees herself from a man who is all talk and no action.  Norma Jean's firm and emotionless decision to leave Leroy suggests it is acceptable to leave not only cruel, abusive, or ungrateful men but also nice, harmless, and helpless men who simply stand in the way of women's goals and dreams.  When she leaves Leroy the inoffensive obstacle, he has a stunned respect for her boldness.  The story's feminist message, told via Leroy's male persective, is that women should feel absolutely no guilt for leaving men who hold them back.  Is this a role reversal? Yes.  Leroy, the abandoned husband, delivers the story's feminist message.  Though it harms him, he musters no disagreement.  When we are unsurprised by a woman's decision to leave a fairly sympathetic male character, we see how fully the woman has taken control of not only marriage but her of her own potential.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way in which role reversals are apparent for Leroy and Norma Jean is that Norma Jean is earning the family's living while Leroy sits at home and doing needlepoint (not that one has anything personal against needlepoint). A larger way in which role reversals are apparent is that Leroy suddenly has few or no choices, whereas formerly he had all possible choices. Now, Norma Jean has a world of choices, whereas formerly she had few or no choices. In fact, this change in choices is very apparent in the fact that when Leroy suggests they can "start over," Norma Jean exercises her choice to flatly decline.

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