Transformation in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong
In Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, Tim O'Brien gives a dynamic example of how even the deep roots of ones culture can be modified. The focus is on the young lady, whose boyfriend manages to have her shipped over to Vietnam from the U.S. She is then thrown into a completely foreign culture that thousands of American GI's were experiencing. This change in culture affected the strongest and most skilled of America's ground troops. The affects on a civilian are almost unfathomable.
The "sweetheart" of the story is a young, American girl whose description identifies her as the stereotypical girl of the late 60's early 70's. "A tall, big-boned blonde,/long legs and blue eyes and a complexion like strawberry ice cream. Very friendly, too."(p. 93). However, this apparently attractive appearance and sweet, innocent demeanor would change over the next few weeks.
At first "she liked to roam around the compound asking questions" (95). She learned many useful skills by "spending time with the ARVN's out along the perimeter, picking up little phrases of Vietnamese, learning how to cook rice over a can of Sterno, how to eat with her hands." (95), she had the mindset "I'm here,/ I might as well learn something." (96). Then slowly, she began to become more active in the activities of daily life in Vietnam. "At the beginning of her second week she began to pester Mark Fossie to take her down to the village" (96). The environment began to take hold of her and slowly draw her out and away from her conventional, civilian way of life.
"At the end of the second week, when four casualties came in, Mary Anne wasn't afraid to get her hands bloody./ She learned how to clip an artery and pump up a plastic splint and shoot in morphine." (98). The changes became more apparent, "The was she quickly fell into the habits of the bush. No cosmetics, no fingernail filing. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a dark green bandana. Hygiene was a matter of small consequence." (98). The bush had done to her what it had done to so many American soldiers. She had no idea how to survive in the conditions that she had taken on, but she learned. She learned "how to disassemble an M-16, how the various...