This detailed analysis of Mason’s most anthologized story consists of two parts: A seven-page handout for your students in which they will study in depth the structure of “Shiloh,” including the inciting moment or the major problem of the story, its climax, recognition, and reversal (or surprise ending), and its denouement or final resolution.
They will further examine the story’s theme (the breakup of a 1970s marriage metaphorically seen in terms of the 1862 Civil War battle at Shiloh), characters (including protagonist and antagonists), irony, and symbolic names.
Not as part of the student handout, I have appended some notes which I used in teaching a graduate-level class on the Modern Short Story. You can pick and choose which of these you might wish to incorporate into your class’s discussion of “Shiloh.” These notes also should allow you to address any questions by your students beyond the points in their handout. For instance, the protagonist of the story Norma Jean says that her given name was Marilyn Monroe’s. I point out that this is a misspelling either on the character’s or on Mason’s part. Monroe’s middle name was spelled “Jeane.”
Furthermore, although the year and the name of the town of the story are never specified, I was able to track them down by using the titles of movies mentioned in the story and census figures of Kentucky towns. Thus this notes section for the teacher consists of six pages of minute and exhaustive commentary on “Shiloh,” some of which might enliven your class.
The student handout, which has blanks that your pupils can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. An answer key is provided on separate pages at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.