Study Guide

Shiloh Transformation

By Bobbie Ann Mason


Norma Jean is the only character in "Shiloh" who transforms throughout the story. Her transformation begins with her body. She became interested in bodybuilding when she saw Leroy using weights for his physical therapy, which inspired her to sign up for a bodybuilding class. In addition to getting physically stronger, Norma Jean also shows an interest in developing her mind. She takes a composition class at the local community college and stays up late working on class assignments.

Over the course of the story, Norma Jean turns herself into a stronger, smarter, and more independent woman—a far cry from the child her mother raised and the teenager Leroy married. Her frustration stems from the fact that that they continue to see her as the child and teenager she was long ago and can't recognize or accept the woman she has become.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Why is Norma Jean so upset when her mother catches her smoking, and how does this relate to her transformation?
  2. Do you see a relationship between the transformation taking place in Norma Jean and the surrounding community? Explain.
  3. The story begins and ends with Norma Jean doing exercises for her chest muscles. How does this relate to her transformation?

Chew on This

If this story were being told from the perspective of Norma Jean, what transformations might she be observing in Leroy?

Norma Jean only cares about her own transformation, and she hasn't really encouraged Leroy's growth and development.