Womens Movment As Seen In Shiloh And The Astronomers Wife

The days of the barefoot woman forced to stay in the kitchen and bedroom are over. Women’s liberation has gained voice in the last century and has emancipated many women, bringing them into the realization that they are not subservient to men. As this thought process becomes more widely spread, more and more women are seeing the truth of it. In the short stories Shiloh and The Astronomer’s Wife this theme of realization and liberation is dominant.
In the story Shiloh by Bobbie Ann Mason we are introduced to Norma Jean. She is a wife to an injured trucker named Leroy. Our first glimpse at Norma Jean is of her working out. “Leroy Moffitt’s wife, Norma Jean, is working on her pectorals. She lifts three-pound dumbbells to warm up, then progresses to a twenty-pound barbell. Standing with legs apart, she reminds Leroy of Wonder Woman.” (Pg. 68) This shows a bit about her strong, self-improving personality. Another look at this trait are seen in her attempts at learning. “Norma Jean is going to night school. She has graduated from her six-week body-building course and now she is taking an adult-education course in composition at Paducah Community College. She spends her evenings outlining paragraphs.” (Pg. 74) Not only is Norma Jean improving her body but her intellect as well. I believe this self-improving aspect points to an independence in her.
In The Astronomer’s Wife independent woman is the farthest description of Mrs. Ames. “She was a youngish woman, but this was forgotten. The mystery and silence of her husband’s mind lay like a chiding finger on her lips. Her eyes were gray, for the light had been extinguished from them.” (Pg. 63) She had at one time been a bright beautiful woman but now she is stifled and has forgotten her beauty. She is very soft spoken. Every time she talks it mentions the soft tone or the hushed voice. This shows that she is a gentle and rather timid woman.
Norma Jean starts having problems in her marriage with Leroy when he gets disabled in a truck accident and is anything but gentle and timid about it.. He has been on the road for fifteen years as a trucker. Now he is home for good and adaptation is necessary. He is all for settling down in the marriage but he senses her discomfort. “Since he has been home, he has felt unusually tender about his wife and guilty over his long absences. But he can’t tell what she feels about him. Norma Jean has never complained about his traveling; she has never made hurtful remarks, like calling his truck a “widow-maker.” He is reasonably certain she has been faithful to him, but he wishes she would celebrate his permanent homecoming more happily. Norma Jean is often startled to find Leroy at home, and he thinks she seems a little disappointed about it. He reminds her too much of the early days of their marriage, before he went on the road. They had a child who died as an infant, years ago. They never speak about their memories of Randy, which have almost faded but now that Leroy is home all the time, they sometimes feel awkward around each other, and Leroy wonders if one of them should mention the child. He feels that they are waking out of a dream together- that they must create a new marriage, start afresh.” Leroy is pretty observant of how his wife is feeling. He knows that this is a new way of living for both of them and he wants to start afresh to save their marriage.
Throughout the story there are numerous symbols that point to the problems in their marriage and the eventual break up. First the truck is seen, “He will probably not be able to drive this rig again. It sits in the backyard, like some gigantic bird of prey that has flown home to roost.” This truck has been the thing that has kept Leroy away from home for fifteen years. It is said to look like some huge bird at roost. Now it is home and it is a menacing thing to Norma Jean.