Gender, Power, and Isolation in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong

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Gender, Power, and Isolation in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong The cultural studies approach to an open text allows the reader to focus on the culture of a specified society. He/she can study the use of social effects and construction of reality on the people or land. "According to the Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature "cultural studies involve scrutinizing a cultural phenomenon and drawing conclusions about the changes in that phenomenon over a period of time" (Geurin 240)." When utilizing the cultural studies approach, the reader must search the whole text for an overall range of situations and reasons why culture would shape a society. This cultural evidence can be found in Tim O'Brien's "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" because of its wide use of gender construction, levels of power, and the theme of isolation. One of the major concerns in "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" is gender construction--especially when it comes to females. How do we usually classify the differences between male and female? During the 1960's, great gender instability occurred. Men were viewed as the dominant, reliable, and powerful figure, while the women were more feminine, quaint, and soft-spoken. All of these characteristics are similarly traced in O'Brien's "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong". Although it was very unlikely, one of the men's girlfriends comes to stay with them in their perimeter. Tim O'Brien describes the appearance of Mary Anne Bell when he writes, "She had long white legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream..." (93). Instantly, the reader takes note of the gender construction of females in the story and how they are supposed to be perceived. Mary Anne is a delicate figure who is caug... ... middle of paper ... ...s would sometimes vanish for days at a time...moving like shadows through the moonlight," (92). The "Greenies" as the other men called them, became the major symbol of seclusion in the story. Although the soldiers were isolated from the reality of war, the physical and emotional affects of war were enough to disrupt the routine in their lives and create a new society in their surrounding environment. The cultural studies approach is only one way of analyzing an open text such as the story "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong", but it is one of the best ways to determine the social actions of a society and the reasons for their cultural beliefs. Having knowledge of tools such as gender construction, levels of power, and the theme of isolation, the reader becomes personally involved with the characters and the ways in which they are coerced to live their lives.

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