3b. Braya and Ava

The chapters “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, “On the Rainy River”, and “The Man I Killed” all exemplify the theme of loss of innocence because each chapter provides a character who engages in a life changing experience, resulting in their loss of innocence. In “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” Mary Anne undergoes a mental and physical transition: “A different person, it seemed, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it…The way she quickly fell into the habits of the bush. No cosmetics, no fingernail filling. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a dark green bandana” (O’brien 94). This quote further explains how her own boyfriend was unable to recognize the known Mary Anne. Before he brought her to Vietnam she was considered a sweet, loving girl, but after being present at Vietnam she lost her innocence because she metaphorically became Vietnam. In the second chapter, “On the Rainy River”, Tim loses his innocence when he receives his draft letter: “The emotions went from outrage to terror to bewilderment to guilt to sorrow and then back again to outrage. I felt a sickness inside me. Real disease. Most of this I’ve told before, or at least hinted at, but what I have never told is the full truth. How i cracked… I felt something break open in my chest. I don’t know what it was. I’ll never know. But it was real, i know that much, it was a physical rupture — a cracking – leaking- popping feeling” (O’Brien 44). This physical rupture Tim felt, shows how he knew he was going to lose his innocence. He knew he was going to have to go to this war, kill people, and watch his best friends die. All of these acts are inhumane, and Tim knew it, but couldn’t do anything about it. He was afraid and embarrassed though to not go to war, thus making it no option other than for him to lose his innocence. In “The Man I Killed” Tim loses his innocence by committing his first inhumane act: killing another person. Once, Tim killed this man he couldn’t stop staring at him or thinking about what he had done: “He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay with one leg bent beneath him, his jaw in his throat, his face neither expressive nor inexpressive. One eye was shut. The other was a star-shaped hole. ‘Talk,’ Kiowa said” (O’Brien 124). Tim blew up a soldier, utterly destroyed his body, humanized the dehumanized soldier, and couldn’t stop staring at him and couldn’t talk about it. He humanized the dehumanized soldier because he was so distraught, that he thought humanizing the soldier would give him a sense of identity and importance. This particular experience has changed Tim in many ways, and will forever change him because this is a traumatic act that will never leave him.

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