Gender Roles in The Things They Carried Essay

Gender Roles in The Things They Carried Essay

Length: 710 words (2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Many of the short stories within the collection The Things They Carried, written by Tim O’Brien, can be compared and contrasted in regards to elements including theme, characters, and technique. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” the character Mary Anne Bell appears to be apparently similar to the character Martha from “The Things They Carried,” in that both are young women who have relations with a soldier in the war. Though upon further analysis of Mary Anne, it appears she is far from alike to Martha. Rather, an unexpected parallel can be drawn between the characters Mary Anne and Elroy Berdahl, from “On the Rainy River,” in that both appear to be epitomes of masculinity. The peculiar connection between these characters developed by Tim O’Brien shines a light on the ambiguity of conventional gender roles of men and women.
Mary Anne is initially introduced to the audience, narrated by Rat Kiley, as an innocent and naïve young woman present in Vietnam solely to visit her boyfriend, Mark Fossie. She arrives in “white culottes” and a “sexy pink sweater” (86), and is deemed by the other soldiers as no more than a happy distraction for her man. As Mary Anne settles in though, her abundant curiosity of Vietnam and the war heighten, and she soon enough possesses as much interest in the war as many of the men. Forward, Mary Anne’s transformation into a soldier begins as she leaves her sweet femininity behind. No longer caring for her vanity, she falls “into the habits of the bush. No cosmetics, no fingernail filing. She stopped wearing jewelry, [and] cut her hair short” (94). Mary Anne’s lost femininity is also evident when she handles powerful rifles like the M-16. Not only does the weapon literally scream out masculi...

... middle of paper ...

...of the value of time and silence. With few words and actions, Elroy is able to prompt O’Brien to reach a resolve regarding his moral obligation to attend war. Miraculously, he succeeds without so much as mentioning war or O’Brien’s obvious predicament “as if he already knew” (58), suggesting he encompasses the omniscient masculine ideal. The unique way in which Mary Anne and Elroy disappear nearing the end of each short story further establishes their character’s identity. While Mary Anne’s exit derives confusion and drama, Elroy’s is simple and painless. This suggests that Mary Anne’s masculinity is presented through her loud and chaotic actions whereas Elroy’s is through his quiet sagacity.

The character analysis of Mary Anne Bell in comparison and contrast to Martha and Elroy Berdahl implores the audience to consider the idea that gender is not inherent.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Free Things They Carried Essays: Women in Vietnam

- The Things They Carried: Women in Vietnam In the book The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien gender stereotypes of women who fought in the Vietnam War are represented through some of the short stories. One short story in particular is "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" which describes a woman who participated in the Vietnam War and went beyond some of her gender roles that were placed on her. In this war women had certain roles they had to fulfill with many of them being non-traditional ones....   [tags: Things They Carried Essays]

Free Essays
527 words (1.5 pages)

Things They Carried Essay: Syntactic and Paratactic Style

- Syntactic and Paratactic Style in The Things They Carried Many times, when an author writes a story, he will use different techniques to influence the way that the reader absorbs the work. Writers use both paratactic style and syntactic style. These two styles contrast each other greatly, but on the same term, they greatly compliment one another. In the book The Things They Carried, O'Brien uses both of these styles. In this essay, syntactic and paratactic style will be examined in the story "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong"....   [tags: Things They Carried Essays]

Better Essays
743 words (2.1 pages)

Gender Roles And Gender Inequality Essay

- Gender Roles The traditional gender roles have been slowly blurred over time. Traditional mid-20th-century American gender roles separate the roles of men and women within a household. Men were the head of household and then the women obeyed their husband. Within the last thirty years, the distinction between the two genders has slowly become equal in the workplace and in daily life. In the workplace, over the years gender inequality has become a big topic of discussion. The discussion of gender inequality ranged from wages to having the higher level positions within the job....   [tags: Gender, Gender role, Feminism, Woman]

Better Essays
1126 words (3.2 pages)

The Things They Carried Female Characters Essay

- "Women are made to be loved, not understood" (Oscar Wilde). In the novel The Things They Carried several female characters that are present in parts of the book are not clearly understood by the main characters. These females have some relation to the main characters whom are at war, but have a more significant symbol in the novel rather than just a character. The author, Tim O 'Brien uses these females to show different sides to the war and the interpretations that the females have compared to the males whom are living and breathing the war in order to show the contrast in ideas and opinions on the war....   [tags: Gender role, Gender, Vietnam War]

Better Essays
1036 words (3 pages)

Native American Gender Roles And Women Essay

- Throughout this paper I will argue that Native American gender roles were entirely flexible, which gave women and men true freedom to be whomever they wanted to be; specifically how women were able to fulfill the roles of men in Native societies. I will compare how Euro-American gender roles proscribed what activities and work were appropriate for men and women and how they punished and shunned people who did not abide by these cultural norms and practices. Then I will relate back to how the flexibility of the Native gender roles were far more superior and fulfilling for the members of said society....   [tags: Gender, Gender role]

Better Essays
2318 words (6.6 pages)

Feminism in The Things They Carried by Tim O´brien Essay

- Of all the literary lenses, one would not think that feminism would be a prevalent topic in a war novel. In Tim O’Brien’s iconic book, The Things They Carried, the idea that women were just as important as men acts an important theme, however from a different perspective. Movies and epic war stories tell of the heroic actions of the World’s finest: bulky men with an appetite for battle. Yet, there always lied a backbone. Comfort, inspiration, ease, all things that women provided to soldiers during any war....   [tags: women, warriors, inanimate objects]

Better Essays
1301 words (3.7 pages)

Essay about Gender Issues in Schools

- Boys educational underachievement (Epstain et al, 1998, Reed, 1999), has raised nationwide and global apprehension and has been the main focal point of the current ‘gender agenda’. Newspapers consist of headlines such as “It is right to worry about the future of our young men” (2010 The Observer), “Use sand to help young boys write, says government” (2009: Guardian), “Are co-ed or single-sex lessons best?” (2009: Guardian) and “Quarter of boys miss writing target at 7!” (2009: Guardian) In this essay I will present relevant statistics illustrating the current gender gap of boys underachievement....   [tags: Gender Roles, Underachievement]

Better Essays
2407 words (6.9 pages)

International Capitalism and Gender Essay

- International economic forces has the ability to transform a society for better or for worse; but, divorcing from their influence when things go south is not simple, for a culture becomes embedded in a transnational system of politics and economics that dictates the culture’s role within the big picture of capitalism. To make sense of changes that occur as a result of capitalism, society defines the meanings of the networks that form society (e.g., kinship or ethnicity). One category we continuously see being utilized is that of gender, a social construct that allows us to comprehend differences between groups of people....   [tags: Capitalism and Gender]

Better Essays
1256 words (3.6 pages)

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

- 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....   [tags: Things They Carried Essays]

Better Essays
1051 words (3 pages)

Gender Roles Essay

- Gender Roles      While I was growing up, gender roles were highly defined by my parents and teachers as well as all other societal influences. Boys were taught to do 'boy' things and girls were taught to do 'girly' things. The toys that children play with and the activities that are encouraged by adults demonstrate the influence of gender roles on today's youth.       In my formative years, the masculine traits that I learned came out because of the activities that my parents had me engage in and the things that they expected from me....   [tags: Female Male Compare Socialization Essays]

Better Essays
855 words (2.4 pages)