Goodbye Norma Jean
In Bobbie Ann Masons Shiloh she describes a couple that is falling apart. Leroy has returned home after being injured in truck driving accident. Recuperating at home he feels guilty for the time he has spent away from his wife Norma Jean. Meanwhile, Norma Jean has decided fly away from their lonely life and become independent. The couple is asked by Norma Jeans mother, Mabel, who hopes to aid the couples reconciliation by encouraging them to take a trip to Shiloh. The place she went on her honeymoon. This fateful trip marks a new beginning, and an end to life as they once knew it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and too much of a good thing may not always be good.
Leroy Moffitt has driven his truck on long hauls for many years. After being involved in an accident and hurting his leg, he returns home to a marriage in trouble. His mission is to fix it. Leroy now sits at home dreaming of building a log cabin for his wife. Mason writes, He has begun to realize that in all the years he was on the road he never took time to examine anything. (307) Leroy is trying to fix the problems of the past by building a home from the past. And, the house they live in is small and nondescript. It does not even feel like a home.(Mason 307) Norma Jean tells Leroy They wont let you build a log cabin in any of the new subdivisions. (Mason 307) Leroy is trying to give Norma Jean the home he believes she wants, and he can build himself. Log cabins are symbolic of homes from olden days not modern new homes that are being built today. Norma Jean does not want a log cabin. She wants a modern new life.
Looking outside Leroy Notices the peculiar way goldfinches fly past the window. They close their wings, then fall, then spread their wings to catch and lift themselves. He wonders if they close their eyes when they fall.(Mason 311) Norma Jeans eyes are open to the reality of a failing marriage. While Leroy was away driving his truck she had a lot of time alone. Now that he is home full time she feels closed in and wants some space. Much like the goldfinches, her wings are closed and she is falling out of love with Leroy.
Norma Jean is picking cake crumbs off the cellophane like a fussy bird. (Mason 317) After years of prodding, Mabel is successful in getting Norma Jean and Leroy to make the trip to Shiloh. Ironically, they have a picnic on the grounds where once there were battles and now there is a cemetery. Norma Jean wads up the cake wrapper and squeezes it tightly in her hand. Without looking at Leroy, she says, I want to leave you. (Mason 317). The battle of being in an unsatisfying marriage is over for Norma Jean. Norma Jean then walks to the bluff and looks out over the river. Now she turns toward Leroy and waves her arms.(Mason 318) Norma Jean is finally spreading her wings to fly away and leave the marriage.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and too much of a good thing may not always be good. After years of being home alone Norma Jean realizes she likes her independence and being on her own. This was never more evident than when she was subjected to a more traditional way of living with Leroy. In turn, Leroy who never really knew his wife, wants to fix their marriage by building her a home she does not want. As well as a marriage she no longer desires to be part of. Like the goldfinches Norma Jean spreads her wings, catches herself, and flies away.
Literature : A Pocket Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: Longman, 2006.