The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
Mary Anne Bell
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Mary Anne is the embodiment of American arrogance in Vietnam. She arrives dressed in her pink sweater and culottes, fresh faced and curious. She wants to know about everything. She treats the deep-rooted conflict as a holiday, blithely treating a Viet Cong stronghold like a tourist town and swimming in a river that's possibly surrounded by snipers. Just like the Americans who thought the war would be easy and over quickly, she thinks she can't be touched.
But she is touched. She's sucked into Vietnam, and she ultimately can't leave. She doesn't want to. Just learning about the country isn't enough. She wants to consume it. And, eventually, she slips away from the soldiers – she's not on their side anymore – and stalks through the night, dealing death.