Study Guide

Shiloh Section 1

By Bobbie Ann Mason

Section 1

  • As the story begins, Norma Jean Moffitt is exercising her pectoral muscles.
  • She became interested in building up as a result of her husband, Leroy Moffitt, breaking down.
  • He injured his leg four months ago while driving his truck in Missouri and has been home in Kentucky for three months, using weights as part of his physical therapy.
  • Leroy totaled his truck, and he's something of a wreck himself.
  • The accident scared him and he doesn't want to do any more long-distance trucking, but he doesn't have a clue about what to do next.
  • He spends his time making dopey things from craft kits, which leads to an equally dopey idea of building a log cabin for Norma Jean, who works at a Rexall drugstore. He's been promising to build her a new home since they were married, but after 16 years they are still renting.
  • She's so not into the log cabin idea, but instead of coming right out and saying so, she tells him he won't be able to build one in any of the new subdivisions.
  • Leroy feels guilty about his long absences and wishes Norma Jean was happier about his being at home, but Mr. Clueless can't quite tell what she's feeling towards him. We're beginning to get the picture, though, and it 'aint pretty.
  • Brace yourself for some sad news, Shmoopers. It turns out that way back when Leroy and Norma Jean were newlyweds, they had a son, Randy, who died in infancy, something they never talk about.
  • Leroy wonders if being around the house all the time reminds Norma Jean of that earlier tragedy. There's only one way to find out, right?
  • But communication in this marriage is literally clouded in smoke. Instead of having conversations with Norma Jean when she comes home from work, Leroy prefers to lie on the couch, smoking marijuana and listening to her play songs from The Sixties Songbook on an electric organ he bought her the previous Christmas.