ChangeIn The Things They Carried a war novel by Tim O’Brien, we are told many short stories compiled to make a whole. I want to emphasis on the importance of the chapter “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”.
In this chapter we are introduced to the character Mary Anne. She shows the changing power of Vietnam, that a sweet innocent young girl can come into this land and be forever consumed by her surroundings. The speaker show us this through character action, character description, dialogue and metaphor; this enhances the literary work by showing us that the soldiers will always be a part of Vietnam no matter how hard they try to get away from it.
Mary Anne was a young sweet innocent girl unaffected by the war at first. The speaker shows us with character description from what she was wearing when she arrived. “This cute blonde just a kid, just barely out of high school…white culottes and this sexy pink sweater.”(O’Brien 90) Her “pink sweater” is a symbol for innocence, the color pink is associated with innocence; “barely out of high school” can also imply her innocence. The end of high school is the beginning of a new world for most.
Thus meaning that she has her whole life in front of her.That she is just starting life. In this next quote you will see that she had the rest of her life planned out or so she thought.“Mary Anne Bell and Mark Fossie had been sweethearts since grammar school. From the sixth grade on they had known for a fact that they would get married…that was the plan. They were very much in love, full of dreams, and in the ordinary flow of their lives the whole scenario might well have come true.”(94) The speaker placed this quote to foreshadow Mary Anne’s change.
“Ordinary flow of their lives the whole scenario might well have come true,” this is saying that if Mary Anne had never gone to Vietnam this may have never happened. True, this may have also happened even if she didn’t go over seas. Having Fossie gone for a long period of time may have sparked her curiosity. Her innocence was soon lost in the war. Mary Anne’s curiosity provoked her change. You see this from the way she is described. If it wasn’t for her avid nature to learn more about her surroundings she may have stayed the same.
She wanted to know everything about Vietnam, she didn’t just want to sit back and watch. She wanted to be in the action. “Though she was young, Rat said Mary Anne Bell was no timid child. She was curious about things…asking questions…. listen quietly while someone would fill her in. She had a good quick mind.”(95) She was enthralled by her surroundings she wanted to do and know everything, she was in a new place ready and willing to learn unlike the soldiers who were there only because they had too.
The speaker shows us this in this quote. “They carried the soldiers greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing…it was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive…they kept humping. They did not submit to the obvious alternative to fall.”(21) This quote is to inform the reader that the only reason a solider would go to war and to stay there is from the “fear of blushing” That they weren’t there by choice.
The term “humping” is used. It is there way of dealing with the war. They just have to keep on ‘humping” and everything would be all right.
It was there way of coping with the war. They thought to “fall” would be shameful, to “blush”.Thus showing that the war will make people do things that they never dreamed possible only to stay away from this “fear of blushing”. The soldiers felt they had to fit this tough man persona.
Mary Anne on the other hand was exempt from this “fear of blushing “ she wasn’t a man so she wasn’t subject to the vulnerable to the standards of what a “man” is suppose to be. She on the other hand was breaking out of the regular mold of a woman. You can tell that she has a lot of courage for not anyone would go to a foreign country where a war is taking place.This tells the reader a lot about her character. Mary Anne curiosity opened up her mind to a whole new level of thinking. Mary Anne wanted to be a part of the land. Vietnam had sucked her in.
She is never going to be anywhere ever again. Her once innocent young mind has been warped from Vietnam. She has seen too much to ever be the same.
We see this via character action. “Mary Anne just stared out at the dark green mountains to the west. The wilderness seemed to draw her in. A haunted look Rat said partly terror, partly rapture. It was if she had come up on the edge of something, as if she was caught in no-man’s land” (105) She was starting to realize that she wasn’t in the right place.
She was taken out of her normal environment and put in a new one but told to live life the same. Mary Anne did not accept this. She felt that it.