Bobbie Ann Mason Analysis

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How do Bobbie Ann Mason’s characters deal with change?

How does Mason portray the contemporary American family?

How does Mason portray women, especially women of different generations?

How do the settings of Mason’s stories and novels influence the characters who live in or travel to those locations?

How do details of popular culture (such as references to music, films, and television programs) contribute to Mason’s fiction?

How did the Vietnam War, as depicted in Mason’s fiction, affect the soldiers who fought there and those who remained at home?

In what ways does Sam mature during the summer portrayed in In Country?

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bobbie Ann Mason has written novels, including Feather Crowns (1993); literary criticism; a memoir, Clear Springs: A Memoir (1999); and popular-culture journalism. She has also been the subject of numerous interviews.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bobbie Ann Mason has earned a place in American literature with her short stories. She won the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for first fiction in 1983 for her first collection of short stories, Shiloh, and Other Stories. That collection also earned for Mason nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award (1982), the American Book Award (1982), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Pennsylvania Arts Council grant (1983), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters award (1984). Mason received the Appalachian Medallion Award (1991), and her novel Feather Crowns was cowinner of the Southern Book Award for fiction and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (1994). Mason’s writing for newspapers and magazines includes work as a society columnist for the Mayfield Messenger in Kentucky and as a writer of fan magazine stories for the Ideal Publishing Company in New York City. She has also written “Talk of the Town” columns and feature articles for The New Yorker.

Mason’s novels have reinforced her reputation. The first of her novels, In Country (1985), was particularly well received, and a film (also titled In Country) based on the book was released by Warner Brothers in the fall of 1989. That year the Vietnam Veterans of America gave Mason its first President’s Citation, which honors a nonveteran who promotes public understanding of the war and its residual effects.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Blythe, Hal, and Charlie Sweet. “The Ambiguous Grail Quest in ‘Shiloh.’” Studies in Short Fiction 32 (Spring, 1995): 223-226. Examines the use of the Grail myth in “Shiloh”; claims the story is a contemporary version of Jessie Weston’s “Waste Land.” Argues that the myth lends universal significance to the minutiae-laden lives of a twentieth century western Kentucky couple in a troubled marriage.

Brinkmeyer, Robert H., Jr. “Never Stop Rocking: Bobbie Ann Mason and Rock-and-Roll.” Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Culture 42, no. 1 (1988-1989): 5-17. Footnoted from seven other articles and interviews, this essay explores Mason’s use of rock music as a significant expression of contemporary culture.

Eckard, Paula Gallant. Maternal Body and Voice in Toni Morrison, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Lee Smith. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002. Focusing on southern and African American women writers, Eckard explores the way female authorship subjectivizes the experience of motherhood, as opposed to the objectification of motherhood by male writers.

Giannone, Richard. “Bobbie Ann Mason and the Recovery of Mystery.” Studies in Short Fiction 27 (Fall, 1990): 553-566. Claims that Mason’s rural characters are caught between an incomprehensible otherworldly force and the loss of their this-worldly anguish; they are mystified by contemporary life while robbed of the mysteries of their lives. Discusses “Shiloh,” “Retreat,” and “Third Monday.”

Morphew, G. O. “Downhome Feminists in Shiloh, and Other Stories.” The Southern Literary Journal 21, no. 2 (1989): 41-49. In a considered treatment of...

(The entire section is 1,019 words.)