Compare and contrast Norma Jean and Leroy in "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason.

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In "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason, there exist more differences between Leroy and Norma Jean than similarities. However, the strongest comparison between the two is their interest in a process. For Norma Jean, the process involves cosmetics; Leroy's interest lies in trucks. When Norma Jean explains to Leroy the three steps in complexion care, "he thinks happily of other petroleum products—axle grease, diesel fuel. This is a connection between him and Norma Jean" (paragraph 9). They are also both able to master steps in different processes. Norma Jean does bodybuilding, plays the organ, and begins to write compositions. Leroy "makes things from craft kits" and even does needlepoint.

However, their differences far outweigh their likenesses. First of all, Leroy is injured because of a truck accident. Physically, he is weak. On the other hand, Norma Jean begins the story lifting weights, and she reveals she even has strong feet when she wears "two-pound ankle weights." She is physically the stronger of the two. As the story continues, Norma Jean also becomes emotionally stronger than Leroy. She takes positive steps to improve her life, while Leroy stays at home and daydreams about building Norma Jean a log house she doesn't want. Norma Jean is actively involved in the future, while Leroy is mired in the past. At the end of the story, Norma Jean announces she prefers a man who "wanders." She wants freedom; Leroy is left unsure of his future.

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In "Shiloh," Norma Jean embraces and wants to be a part of the future, while Leroy retreats into and wants to reclaim the past.

The two live in a changing environment.  Their world is changing from rural to urban.  Norma Jean tries to better herself.  She exercises and takes a class at the local college.  She wants a contemporary house.  Leroy dreams of building an old fashioned log cabin.  The two are heading in different directions.

They even exchange gender roles.  Norma Jean becomes the main earner in the home, rejects her mother, and even drives her and her husband to Shiloh near the end of the story.  Leroy, the truck driver, lets his wife drive him around, stays at home keeping busy doing crafts usually performed by women, doesn't work, and sides with Norma Jean's mother, the in-law. 

Their marriage is as dead as the soldiers buried at Shiloh surrounding them when Norma Jean tells him she wants to leave him. 

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