In Bobbie Ann Mason's story "Shiloh" she presents Norma Jean as a strong willed person but having emptiness within. Norma Jean is presented as a strong character on the outside in the opening of the story. "She lifts three-pound dumbbells to warm-up, then progresses to a twenty-pound barbell"(348). However as the story progresses she exhibits the emptiness in which she feels. "One day Leroy arrives home from a drive and finds Norma Jean in tears." (354). Norma feels emptiness toward her deceased child, her husband, and even her mother. Her emptiness toward her husband is shown in the way she interacts with him. She is always very uncomfortable around him; and is always trying to find something for him to do. When Leroy comes home, he often feels unwanted. "She seems a little disappointed." (349). The emptiness she feels toward her mother is presented in the way she treats her. Lastly, her deceased son symbolizes emptiness because of his death.
In the beginning of the story, Norma Jean conceals her emptiness by presenting herself as a strong woman by working out and getting into shape. This may make her stronger physically, but nothing can overcome the sadness in which she feels. Norma Jean tries to help her husband get a job, and gives him many ideas. All this is because she doesn't enjoy his company because their relationship makes her feel uncomfortable. The two do not know how to discuss their problems; therefore Norma Jean conceals all her feelings inside of herself. Because her husband has been gone for so long, she has learned to live on her own, and because of this she has settled in deep feelings of emptiness toward her husband, which leads her to end their marriage later on in the story. .
As the story proceeds, Norma Jean's emptiness begins to overcome her. She feels more and more anguish toward her mother. She feels as though her mother is always getting on her for something, whether it is smoking or that her laundry is piling up.