Free Things They Carried Essays: The Girl Next Door

Free Things They Carried Essays: The Girl Next Door

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The Girl Next Door in The Things They Carried  


The Feminist Approach Method to critical analysis examines the feminism implied within the text. In Tim O'Brien's, The Things They Carried, the story, "Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong," is a story about the changes in a female when she is exposed to war. But, more importantly it is a story that illustrates how women are more than sex objects. "Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong," proves that female and male stereotypes do not always apply.


"Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong," is a story being told by Rat Kiley to Mitchell Sanders, two soldiers of the Vietnam War. Mark Fossie's girlfriend, Mary Anne Bell, comes to stay with the soldiers in their perimeter. She arrives to Vietnam by a helicopter with the daily shipment of supplies for the soldiers. When the soldiers meet her she is identified as an innocent blond with "white culottes and this sexy pink sweater" (90). Even her name is a direct reference to the Virgin Mary, a sign of purity. The men in the perimeter are attracted to her, because they see her as a sex object. They view her as a daily source of survival.


In the beginning of the story, Mark Fossie guides Mary Anne around by the arm, but after a while, Mary Anne begins to guide herself. Slowly, she becomes curious about the equipment and the war. She begins to adapt to life in Vietnam by eating with her hands, and using the phrases she hears from the soldiers. She becomes less concerned about her appearance and her cleanliness, and she begins to use weapons. Her voice becomes lower, her body becomes firmer, and her eyes become colder. She is becoming less of a sex object to the soldiers, because she is more masculine.


One night Mary Anne does not come back to Fossie. He begins jumping to the conclusion that she is sleeping with other soldiers, when actually she is just hanging out with the guys. Mary Anne explains to Fossie that the war is like an appetite. On page 111, she states:

"I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark-I'm on fire almost-I'm burning away into nothing- but it doesn't matter because I know exactly who I am."

This statement is referring to the idea that Mary Anne has found a part of her that was always missing.

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She is no longer the girl next door in a "sexy pink sweater." She is no longer a sex object to the soldiers, she is a soldier. In the beginning of the story, it is implied that war is no place for a girl, but on page 111, Mary Anne tells Fossie, "You're in a place where you don't belong." Mary Anne has become the soldier and Fossie no longer belongs.


"Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong," is not only a story about a female's loss of innocence, but it is also a story about a woman overcoming her stereotype as a sex object. This story exemplifies the idea that people adapt to the environment in which they inhabit. In every female there is a person who is more than just a body. A female's body is the sanctuary of her soul. Mary Anne Bell proves that women can overcome the identity of a sex symbol. Being female does not obligate females to dress the way people perceive them. Mary Anne Bell is the heroin. She realized who she was according to her standards, and not according to the standards of society.

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