What is the central idea of “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason?

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The central idea of “Shiloh” is the difficulty that couples face in bridging a communications gap, especially one that has expanded following the death of a child. This idea is supported by quotes about Leroy not examining his inner life, the few connections he has with Norma Jean, and his wondering if they should finally speak about the death of their baby.

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In the short story “Shiloh,” Bobbie Ann Mason explores the disintegration of a marriage as two people grow apart. She emphasizes the communications gap between the husband and wife, Leroy and Norma Jean. Actual conversation between the two had been complicated while Leroy was working as a long-distance trucker, but their inability to discuss real problems goes much deeper. Following an injury, he has been at home and does not want to resume driving long hauls. This reluctance can be seen as parallel to Norma Jean’s increasing dissatisfaction with the marriage, as late in the story, she tells him she wants to leave the marriage.

Mason does not specify whether they had problems communicating before their baby boy, Randy, died in infancy. She does convey, through Leroy’s thoughts, that they have never openly discussed the impact of Randy’s sudden death.

Leroy expresses to himself an awareness of his tendency to avoid introspection. He thinks, “in all the years he was on the road he never took time to examine anything.”

Substituting minor random facts for genuine bonds between them, Leroy compares his wife’s work at a drugstore and his trucking. He seizes on the common basis of petroleum in cosmetics, about which she is knowledgeable, and automotive products such as axle grease. In his imagination, “This is a connection between him and Norma Jean.”

Although he is aware of the gap between them, Leroy contemplates bridging it up but cannot identify the steps to take. He knows that Randy’s death is a crucial element of that growing space.

They never speak about their memories of Randy, which have almost faded, but now that Leroy is home all the time, they sometimes feel awkward around each other, and Leroy wonders if one of them should mention the child.

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What is the central idea of “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason? Provide quotes that prove the central idea. Note: the central idea is the central, unifying element of the story, which ties together all of the other elements of fiction used by the author to tell the story.

Bobbie Ann Mason’s story “Shiloh” is about the disintegration of a marriage. The story's central idea is that people’s inability to communicate in the aftermath of personal tragedy can destroy an intimate relationship such as a marriage.

Norma Jean and Leroy are a married couple whose relationship is falling apart. Their present-day lack of mutual understanding grew out of much earlier difficulties. After the death of Randy, their infant son, Norma Jean and Leroy could not talk about their experiences and drifted apart. The gap between them grew so large that they could not bridge it.

The author uses a third-person narrator but primarily offers the man’s point of view, while indicating that they rarely share their feelings. Leroy reflects on their marriage and his inability or unwillingness to discuss his thoughts with Norma Jean.

Perhaps he reminds her too much of the early years of their marriage…. They had a child who died as an infant. They never speak about their memories of Randy… and Leroy wonders if one of them should mention the child.

Norma Jean later brings up the subject of the baby’s death, but without specifically mentioning it. She is prompted by her mother telling a story about a dog that killed a baby. Leroy claims not to understand her.

“What are you talking about?” Leroy says, nervously shuffling blueprints.

“You know good and well…. The very idea, her bringing up a subject like that! Saying it was neglect.”

“She didn’t mean that,” Leroy says.

Later, Leroy realizes that he does not understand his wife or even how a marriage works. He connects this idea with his lack of understanding of history, about which he is thinking because of their visit to the Shiloh Civil War battlefield. Leroy reflects that

the real inner workings of a marriage, like most of history, have escaped him.

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