Does deviating from one’s gender norms inevitably doom one down a spiral of moral corruption? Tim O'Brien, author of “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” and Ernest Hemingway, author of “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, certainly seem to hold this view, as evident by the fates of the major female characters in their respective works. The deviance of the major female characters in both works appears to corrupt not only themselves, but also pollute their partners, causing them to suffer injury or harm as a result. The degree of injury ranges from negligible, like Fossie’s demotion and broken heart, to fatal, like the bullet that rips through Macomber’s skull. It begs the question, are these stories meant to serve as cautionary tales for their female readers, or possibly for their husbands, so they may recognize gender deviance and stop it in its tracks before their wives transform into Margot Macomber or Mary Anne Bell? This essay will analyze what such characters say about pervading views of women, both in society and in literature.
At the end of “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, Mark Fossie gazes upon his previously demure and sweet girlfriend as a demon, surrounded by carnage, a necklace of shriveled human tongues around her neck as she stands barefoot in the hootch of the Green Berets. The male reader is meant to resonate with Mark’s horror and be terrified of Mary Anne’s feral transformation. The pure, sweet, socially conforming to-be wife has been corrupted by