The Question of Creating a New Identity and the Instability of Gender Roles in Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh, (1982) Essay
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"Identity seems to be unshakable, but its apparent stability is an illusion. As the world changes identity changes … Because the mind and the world develop at different rates and in different ways, during times of rapid change they cease to be complementary … The result is a widening gap between the world as it exists in the mind and the world as it is experienced—between identity formed by tradition and identity demanded by the present." - O.B. Hardison
Bobbie Ann Mason’s foremost concerns in Shiloh, (1982) is the rapid evolution in social relationships between men and women, and how the traditional gender role alters the identity of ordinary, everyday people. In the wake of the fluctuation of gender roles, Mason’s women “try to forge new identities and their efforts often include a blatant shrinking of traditionally feminine behaviors or characteristics; sometimes they seem almost completely to be trading roles with the men in their lives.” (Bucher, 59) In “Shiloh”, Leroy Moffitt and Norma Jean are a couple who have been married for fifteen years. As a result of the trucking accident, Leroy is rendered disabled and unemployed. Not only does this incident leave the couple's lives in turmoil, but the changes in their home town in Kentucky, further disrupt their everyday lives. Through this working class couple, Mason shows the metamorphosis in gender roles and its relation to a woman's independence.
Norma Jean, the main female protagonist in the story is a "good example of a character who attempts to construct a new identity" (Wilhelm, 77). Norma Jean is employed at a cosmetics counter in a local drug store, maintains the household with cooking and cleaning, and still finds time to accomplish personal tasks for herself. She involves herself with body-building, composition classes at a local community college, and music. Norma Jean is introduced in the first