Study Guide

Shiloh Tough-o-Meter

By Bobbie Ann Mason


(3) Base Camp

Sure, the story might be named after an old battlefield, but getting through "Shiloh" shouldn't be a battle in the least. It's fairly easy to read and understand, though you will get more out of the story if you have a basic understanding of the historical Civil War references. Just what makes this story so "reader friendly"?

  • Plain language that reflects its small town setting and its characters' lower middle class status and lack of college education.
  • Sentences tend to be short, straightforward, and in the present tense.
  • Although there are some flashbacks to fill us in on what brought Norma Jean and Leroy to their current crisis, the timeline of the narrative is easy to follow.

What you might find more challenging are:

  • Shiloh's symbolism (see "Symbolism") and ambiguous ending (see "What's Up With the Ending?").
  • References to pop culture and products that were current in the time of the story but out-of-date for contemporary readers. For example, the reference to the Phil Donahue Show probably doesn't register—but don't worry, we've got you covered (see "Shoutouts").