In the Vietnam jungle’s tall, gnarled trees and shadowy depths lurks a danger invisible to the naked eye. It is not the perilous creatures that traverse its grounds, nor even the soldiers with machine guns that pose the threat. In fact, the danger emanates from the absence of something—the absence of the female perspective. Tim O’Brien’s decides to expose the lost female perspective in his novel The Things They Carried. By focusing on the male point of view and devoting little on that of the female perspective, he fully demonstrates America’s gender stereotyping in war. Meanwhile, just as in the jungle, women are lost within the throng of the patriarchal construction of American society. While deployed men indeed face the complex fear of acceptance and banishment, women fail to be recognized in any positive light. The deviated depiction of female protagonists from normalized gender binaries in The Things They Carried solidifies the masculine domination of war, and also uproots any possibility of male acceptance of the women that dare to test the masculine protocol casted on America by its own soldiers.
O’Brien is unique for his ability to offer a perspective of someone who is not just a survivor of the Vietnam War, but also a man that is thriving in America’s strict societal construction of forced masculinity. The men deployed to Vietnam, including O’Brien, lived in fear of banishment from a constructed hierarchy of masculinity as opposed to actually living in fear of their lives. American society in the 1970’s “polarized gender, reinforced binaries and stereotypes and privileged men” (Vanderwees 191). Society creates the image of a modern American male using stereotypes of strength...
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...y not waiting years for his return home. Even though it was clear Martha was never interested, except in the fantasies of Cross, she is still portrayed as some sort of an antagonist. She is the reason Cross is distracted in the middle of the war. She is the reason Ted Lavender got shot. Never mind that Cross let down his guard during one of the most critical moments in his life; according to Cross it is not the action that is to blamed, it is the reason behind it.
O’Brein did not portray any woman in the novel as something other than negative. Martha was submissive and blamed for the death of a soldier. Mary Anne was passionate, yet regarded as monstrous for having the same appetite for war as the men did.
Long after the American soldiers left the Vietnam jungle, the danger lurking in its depths is still just as prevalent as it was when they first arrived.
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