Study Guide

Shiloh Writing Style

By Bobbie Ann Mason

Writing Style


Bobbie Ann Mason's writing style is generally described as "minimalism." In general, think less is more. Fewer words. Fewer pages. Sparse.

Stick with us, because we're going to get a little serious here for a hot second.

As a literary term, minimalism refers to a style of short fiction popular in the late 70's and early 80's and associated with struggling working-class characters, charmless rural and suburban settings and a certain terseness of expression.

This type of writing is also known as ''Kmart realism," though we're not sure why it's Kmart and not Walmart, or Target for that matter. Literary critics can be so arbitrary.

In Mason's case, her use of plain, simple language echoes the way she heard people speaking growing up in rural, western Kentucky. In "Shiloh," Mason relies on dialogue to show the way people actually speak to one another in the story. Think of it as mimicry with a dash of mockery, as in Mabel and Leroy's use of local expressions, such as Mabel's "Great day in the morning" [2.17] and "I like to died" [5.11], and Leroy's "Don't do me that way" [7.16]. Their way of speaking shows they have deep roots in the area they live in.

Norma Jean's roots run just as deep, but the fact that she speaks in a more educated, grammatically correct way says a lot about her character. She even corrects her mother's misuse of language:

The word is 'dachshund' [4.4].

We like to imagine her saying while rolling her eyes with her nose stuck up in the air. Norma Jean's more educated speaking style reflects her goal of self-improvement and her desire to bust out of her minimalist life and live to the max.