Shiloh

by: Bobbie Ann Mason

Important Quotations Explained

1. “Your name means ‘the king,” Norma Jean says. . . . she is reading a book about another century. . . .
“Am I still the king around here?”
Norma Jean flexes her biceps and feels them for hardness. “I’m not fooling around with anybody, if that’s what you mean. . . .”

This quotation, which appears near the end of the story, reveals that Norma Jean’s foray into education both empowers and drives her away from Leroy. When she learns, for example, that le roy means “the king” in French, she seems aware of the irony in the definition. Her husband, an out-of-work pothead, strikes her as anything but kinglike. When Leroy asks, “Am I still the king around here?” he reveals his uneasiness. He knows that Norma Jean’s books, which he can identify only vaguely as “about another century,” are taking her beyond his reach, and he senses that she may have ceased to consider him the head of the household. In answer to Leroy’s question, Norma Jean “flexes her biceps,” a gesture that should confirm Leroy’s suspicions. Norma Jean is literally flexing her muscles and showing her husband that she is the one in charge of things now. She then provides a grudging and stereotypically male reassurance that she is not having an affair. Both mentally and physically, Norma Jean is toughening up.