Loss of Innocence

The Loss of Innocence

In the story “The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, by Tim O’Brien, a soldier sneaks his girlfriend to Vietnam to stay with him in his medic compound, and she ends up becoming obsessed with Vietnam, absorbing the war, and eventually vanishing into the bush.   Mary Ann Bell arrived in the medic compound bubbly and full of youthful curiosity, not unlike the soldiers when they first arrived in Vietnam.   She came with more than just a pretty face.   She represented what the soldiers left behind.   As Rat Kiley stated, “...Mary Ann made you think of all those girls back home, how clean and innocent they all are, how they’ll never understand any of this...” (pg 113). She was their dreams, their youth, there escape, their future all in one package.   Especially to her boyfriend, Mark Fossie, she was his future, his connection to normalcy and life after the war.   When she changed, and ultimately vanished, it is as if the war stole every piece of him.   Her transformation is quick, drastic and shocking.   She makes the affect of the war tangible.   Using a girl for the drastic transformation allows room for a love story to unfold, and enhances the sense of loss associated with the war.
Mary Ann Bell and Mark Fossie were a picture of true love.   They had been together since sixth grade, and planned to be together forever.   When she first arrived in the medic compound, they spent every minute together.   She is described as attractive, blond, blue-eyed and bubbly.   The other medics liked her.   She was unafraid and curious, asking questions and listening intently to the answers.   She quickly adapted to life in the compound, and home became a distant thought for her.   For Mark Fossie, she represented home and their future together after the war.   She was his escape from the war.
As Mary Ann began to absorb life in Vietnam, Mark Fossie became somewhat uncomfortable, yet proud of her eagerness and fearless quest for knowledge.   Rat Kiley describes Mark...