Mabel Beasley, the Mother of Norma Jean, in Bobbie Ann Mason’s "Shiloh", has all the characteristics of a Marine Drill Sergeant. A Drill Sergeant will inspect living areas for cleanliness, demand everything be in its proper place, maintain strict discipline, and change certain personality or character traits. The Drill Sergeant will force any person, without a strong spirit, to perform acts of defiance against themselves, society, or the object of their tribulations. These Drill Sergeant characteristics are very evident in the way Mabel governed Norma Jean during her adult life.
Our introduction to Mabel in the story does not resemble the stature of a Drill Sergeant; just the opposite is true: "a short, overweight woman" (666). When Mabel was younger, was thin and good-looking, she would have been a model Sergeant. Now, she is envisioned in a long loose fitting dress. Flower patterns cover the dress from shoulder to ankle. It conceals the bulges overhanging from different parts of her body, as the years have added the extra pounds. The dress is divided in the middle with a white belt and gold buckle. This is the kind of belt and buckle Drill Sergeant Mabel would wear during her inspection of Norma Jean’s house: "she inspects the closets and then the plants, informing Norma Jean when a plant is droopy or yellow. She also notices if Norma Jean’s laundry is piling up" (666). Everything must be in its proper place, having been ordered by Mabel’s strict discipline policy.
Mabel’s discipline is the result of her anger against Norma Jean for getting pregnant out of wedlock, and the death of the baby a few months after birth; taking Mabel’s only grandchild. It is doubtful Norma Jean will give Mabel another grandbaby. She is thirty-four, and it has been fifteen years. Now, Mabel is beginning to realize no grandchildren will enrich her life while she is young.
Mabel’s actual age is not known, neither is there knowledge of her age when she married, or the circumstances surrounding her marriage. Was it possible she made a mistake, and married because she...