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Transformation in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong

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 p…

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…completed itself.

Almost a complete metamorphosis from the innocent American school girl to this highly skilled stealthy creature that could live off of the land without support from anything or anyone. “She had crossed to the other side. She was part of the land. She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of human tongues. She was dangerous. She was ready for the kill.” (116).

Going from “white bread” America to the bush of Vietnam is a drastic change. Two completely different worlds. Mary Anne comes in as this assumingly frail child of American conventionalism and the story ends with her becoming the ideal killing machine. This shows how culture can change a person. During the Vietnam War, this change took place to thousands of soldiers. They were not born to kill, but to live. They had to learn to kill. Just as Mary Anne did.

Shakespeare’s Othello – Iago’s Motives Plus Othello’s Weaknesses Equals Tragedy

Iago’s Motives Plus Othello’s Weaknesses Equals Tragedy

In some ways, Shakespeare’s play, Othello can be considered didactic as in the case in classical tragedy, the hero’s falls arises as fault of a hamartia on his part, a fault which plagues humanity. In fact, throughout the work, Othello is revealed to have many more faults and weaknesses than a man of his stature should posses, providing a reason for his downfall. The work’s main protagonist, the scheming Iago, ultimately has his own reasons for his actions; actions that, at first, might appear to be inherently evil and motiveless. A third variable here, the role of the setting, and its part in the tragedy also helps to explain the reasons for it. Through Iago’s motives, and Othello’s inherit weaknesses, the tragedy of the play is meaningful for the audience.

By examining Iago’s actions and his soliloquies the audience is able to discern that Iago does indeed have motives for his actions, however weak they may be. Despite Iago recognising that indeed the moor ‘is of a free and open nature’ (Oth Act 1 Sc. 3 ll. 381), he still does despise him. Iago has to be examined closer to discover his motives: of course, he is jealous of Cassio’s appointment as Othello’s lieutenant and this is an ultimate irony in itself as he later mocks Othello for his own jealousy, having succumbed to the ‘green-eyed monster’. There is also of course Iago’s blatant racial slurs and hatred towards Othello, and his paranoia regarding the supposed infidelity of his wife, ‘And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office’ (Oth Act 1 Sc. 3 ll. 369-370). However, the latter excuse may seem less reasonable, considering that Iago also utters later that he believes that Cassio has also slept with his wife. Iago’s attitude to the subject, contrasting with Othello’s view of sex as a unifying force, is that it is something inherently dirty and revolting, increasing his paranoia .

Iago’s main vice however is his lust for power. Ultimately, his aim is not to rise to the rank of lieutenant, but to go as far as he is able to. This point is justified by his plotting not only against Cassio, the man who holds his coveted position, but Othello, the general of the Venetian army himself. Ultimately, Iago is surprised by how easy it becomes to manipulate Othello and by the end of the play is even a little sorry for the ease at which his plan has come to fruition.

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