Study Guide

Shiloh Gender Roles

By Bobbie Ann Mason

Gender Roles

Bobbie Ann Mason plays the good old gender role switcheroo with Leroy and Norma Jean, which adds an element of conflict to their relationship. Norma Jean tells Leroy that his "name means the king" (6.1), but she's the one who acts like a conventional male leader. She's the breadwinner, lifts weights, and pursues higher education—all considered more typically masculine in the time and place of the story. Leroy plays the more traditional feminine role of the bored housewife, focused on home and matters of the heart. This gender role reversal in "Shiloh" leaves both characters frustrated in what they expect from each other and themselves.

Questions About Gender Roles

  1. How does Leroy react to Norma Jean wearing the pants in their relationship?
  2. How does Mabel try to "encourage" Norma Jean to be more of a traditional housewife?
  3. Why do you think Norma Jean says, "Don't be funny" (7.25) in response to Leroy's question, "Is this one of those women's lib things?" (7.24)?

Chew on This

Seeing Norma Jean taking on a more masculine role, yet still being responsible for traditional feminine chores like housecleaning and cooking, reflects how un-liberating women's liberation can be.

Bobbie Ann Mason reverses gender roles in Norma Jean in Leroy to show the challenges of being yourself vs. fitting in with what family, friends and society expect.

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