Shiloh

by: Bobbie Ann Mason

Leroy Moffitt

Characters Leroy Moffitt

Leroy is a man adrift in his own life, casting about for an identity and a sense of purpose. Although he has almost recovered from his accident, he is shaken up and frightened of driving the rig again. No longer the primary breadwinner, he begins to lose his identity as a provider. He is less interested in pursuing the carpentry and guarding jobs that Norma Jean suggests than he is in sewing needlepoint, building models, and dreaming of constructing a log cabin for himself and Norma Jean to live in. Leroy has also lost his identity as a father. His son, Randy, is dead, and although Leroy often thinks of him, his memories of Randy have faded, and Leroy does not consider himself a paternal figure. At loose ends, Leroy latches on to Norma Jean. He is something of a romantic and imagines that his wife will appreciate his constant presence around the house and that their marriage will flourish as a result. When it turns out that Norma Jean is annoyed and oppressed by his homecoming, Leroy begins to lose his identity as a husband.

Mason portrays Leroy as lovable, perceptive, and kind, but a loser nonetheless. Leroy adores Norma Jean and watches her anxiously, trying to guess what she is feeling and thinking. He treats his abrasive mother-in-law with respect, showing sympathy and kindness toward her even when she insults him. When tensions simmer or Norma Jean and Mabel squabble, Leroy diffuses the situation by staying calm and refusing to be provoked. He misses his son and makes friendly overtures to Stevie Hamilton, who is the same age Randy would have been and cruelly rejects Leroy’s attempts at conversation. If Leroy wins our hearts, however, he also earns Norma Jean’s criticism. Instead of pulling himself together and finding a new job, he lies on the couch smoking pot or drives aimlessly around town. He allows himself to be intimidated by his wife’s increased independence, rather than accepting it or even encouraging it. He anticipates Norma Jean’s departure, but he passively watches it happen rather than try to prevent it. Although he remains hopeful, wondering whether his wife is beckoning to him in the distance, it is clear to us that his lovable nature will not outweigh his negative qualities in Norma Jean’s eyes.