The Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong Essay

The Things They Carried: Motifs Exhibited In "Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong"

There are many war stories written by many war veterans but The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien stands out from rest. Tim O'Brien communicates that the Vietnam War was about more than just battles. One story in particular, "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," captures this idea. In this story, Rat Kiley tells of the story of a soldier who brought his elementary school sweetheart out to Vietnam, but she fell in love with Vietnam, embraced it, and eventually disappeared into the jungle to gain a connection the men found incomprehensible. This story emphasizes the vast difference between the world of Vietnam and the world back home where it was safe. At the same time as the theme of war changing people, it reiterates the themes of the need of women as an escape from reality and the loss of innocence due to the war. Tim O'Brien examines and depicts the "other" side of war that was deeper and more meaningful through the repetition of themes in his stories.

War changes people, but its effects are different from person to person. Some are driven to insanity and some to nostalgia for the war, some for the better but most for the worse. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” Mary Anne came to Vietnam a sweet and innocent girl fresh out of high school, but the allure of the war transformed her. She never went back. Rat describes her change when he says, “It took a few seconds... to appreciate the full change. In part it was her eyes; utterly flat and indifferent. There was no emotion in her stare, no sense of the person behind it” (110). Rat Kiley himself is affected by the war, as illustrated in "Night Life" when he couldn't take the tensions of the war so he scratched himself raw from the bites of huge imaginary bugs and shot his own toe off to get sent to Japan and out of the action. Before Rat Kiley's escape, O'Brien commented, "It was a sad thing to watch. Definitely not the old Rat Kiley. His whole personality seemed out of kilter" (222), and "Rat Kiley finally hit a wall" (222). Norman Bowker, a fellow soldier of Rat Kiley in Alpha Company, also felt the effects of the war, but his breakdown occurred in post-war times as shown in "Speaking of Courage." There was no smooth transition between war and peace for him. He couldn’t fit into and couldn't enjoy home life because it wasn't real enough and the costs weren't high enough compared to war. Norman Bowker wrote to Tim, "[T]here's no place to go. Not just in this lousy little town. In general. My life, I mean. It's almost like I got killed over in Nam" (156). After letting O'Brien know his thoughts, the disquieted Norman Bowker committed suicide. The Vietnam War was too imposing and too overwhelming a time in any person's life for him to remain unaffected by it. A metamorphosis, whether big or small, must occur.

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Sweetheart of the Song of Tra Bong as Metaphor Essay

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Sweetheart of the Song of Tra Bong as Metaphor

The Vietnam War is a strange and unexplainable event in American history. The controversies surrounding the American involvement in Vietnam and the need for Vietnam veterans to tell their stories of the war are prevalent in the post-Vietnam culture of America. "The stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and bedlam, the mad and the mundane"(89). The story of the sweetheart of the Song of Tra Bong explains this quote of the veteran stories never make exact sense, but they are stories from a war that never quite made exact sense either. The story of "Sweetheart of the Song of Tra Bong," involving a young girl coming to Vietnam…show more content…

"Fine with me. But you don't know human nature. You don't know Nam"(97). This is a story about the development of human nature and accepting the changes of a rite of passage.

Mary Anne adjusted to the life in Vietnam, as did the soldiers that were there, and as time progressed she began to enjoy or get a thrill out of being in Vietnam. "I mean when we first got here-all of us- we were real young and innocent, full of romantic bullshit, but we learned pretty damn quick. And so did Mary Anne,"(97). The learning curve in war is quickened by the fact that it is a matter of life or death when you are working in a war, and it did not matter who you were the you quickly learned how to operate in a battle field. Mary Anne did not fit in a first and did not know or understand her role in the war, and just like the fresh soldiers coming from America did know or understand their role in the war. As the soldiers, as well as Mary Anne, begin to realize the realities of the war they move their focus away from their homes in America and begin to focus on the work that needed to be accomplished in Vietnam. The physical changes that occur to Mary Anne as she begins to be assimilated into the Vietnam War are like night and day. She came as your typical American girl, but then becomes a fighting soldier looking and anticipating ugly war

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