Difference Between Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong ; A Soldier’s Sweetheart
Once a successful novel hits the market, producers are inclined to adapt the story into a movie. Since imagination, symbolism, and character psyches are explored in a novel, the movies tend to lack the luster of the original text. Using their imagination, readers are able to conjure up characters and scenes that are unique. This is the case with Tim OBriens, Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong. This is a story where love and war collide after a soldier brings his sweetheart to his Vietnamese post. On the whole, this chapter in The Things They Carried is far superior to the film, The Soldiers Sweetheart, because it has thorough descriptions of characters feelings, including symbolism concerning objects and important events. When the audience is able to draw it’s own story around an author’s narrative, the experience is more satisfying than when every detail is presented through the cinematic medium – an active audience is happier than a passive one.


Stark contrasts exist between the description of the characters and emotional content between the book and the movie. This may be mainly due to the limited length of the movie. In the movie, Rat Kiley who is telling the story seems gentler. In the book they make it seem like everything Rat says is exaggerated, but the movie does not stress that fact. Among the men in Alpha Company, Rat had a reputation for exaggeration and overstatement, a compulsion to rev up the facts, and for most of us it was normal procedure to discount sixty or seventy percent of anything he had to say (OBrien 89). Also, the movie emphasizes the fact that Rat Kiley fell in love with Mary Anne Bell. He himself says he loved her towards the end of the movie. A character that people may tend to have sympathy for is Mark Fossie. In the book, one may not feel for Fossie. The movie shows the character having more feeling especially after he couldnt find Mary Anne. A third character that is portrayed differently in the movie than in the book is Mary Anne, who is the main female character of the chapter. The movie stressed the fact that Mary Anne wanted to learn more about the Vietnamese way of life. There was a scene in the movie where Mary Anne spent time with the Vietnamese soldiers learning their language and how to cook their food. They also show her going to a Vietnamese village trying to communicate with the children. In the book it says, The guys sometimes liked to kid her about it-our own little native, theyd say-but Mary Anne would just smile and stick out her tongue. She was not only into the Vietnamese way of life, but she was also into the life of a soldier in war. She wanted to learn more about how to shoot a gun. She wanted to be like one of the guys. The novel installs all these ideas, but it also allows the reader to use their creativity. It also gives more emphasis on little traits of the character that make the character more unique. Therefore, due to the film’s inability to give audiences more information about the characters, their role and their emotions, the novel is much more informative.

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The novel is capable of giving readers more insight into the story with the use of symbols and hidden meanings. It is able to do this because it depicts important underlying messages and incidents. For instance, in the novel one may realize that Mary Anne starts to wear a necklace with tongues on it. This shows the readers that Mary Anne is no longer than clean innocent girl. She is now a brutal solder always ready to kill. Elongated and narrow, like pieces of blackened leather, the tongues were threaded along a length of copper wire, one overlapping the next, the tips curled upward as if caught in a final shrill syllable (OBrien 111). Portrayed in both the novel and movie is Mary Annes change in personal hygiene. No cosmetics, no fingernail filing. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a dark green bandanna, (OBrien 98). Mary Anne was starting to become a whole new person. A symbol in the movie that was not shown in the novel was a butterfly. While Mary Anne was exploring the land around her, she came across a beautiful monarch butterfly. The butterfly symbolizes Mary Annes metamorphosis. Just as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, Mary Anne was changing her usual habits and behavior. In the novel and movie, both these symbols and events assist in the developing of the plot.


Both the novel and movie had different endings and descriptions for important scenes. In the film, the ending suggests that Mary Anne and Rat Kiley end up together, while in OBriens novel, everything is left as a mystery. If you believed the Greenies, Rat said, Mary Anne was still somewhere out there in the dark, (OBrien 116). In the film, after Rat finishes telling his story about Mary Anne, Mitchell Sanders was killed. The Vietnamese had attacked them. As Rat Kiley is going through the jungle killing Vietnamese soldiers, he sees a vision of Mary Anne. One may not be sure as to whether or not it was really her, but the movie suggests that it is. Rat sees Mary Anne and at the end disappears with her into the jungle. Another difference in the movie had to do with the description of the Greenie area. Throughout the chapter, the Greenies are expressed as hardworking soldiers who were always ready to kill. After Fossie waited many days for Mary Anne, he is convinced that he heard Mary Annes voice coming from the Greenies post. Once he goes into the post, the reader comes across a harsh description of the Greenies home. The place seemed to echo with a weird deep-wilderness sound-tribal music-bamboo flutes and drums and chimes, (OBrien 109). On a post at the rear of the hootch was the decayed head of a large black leopard; strips of yellow-brown skin dangled from the overhead rafters, (OBrien 110). The images that come across the readers minds are gruesome. With the type of description given, one may immediately think that the Greenies were animal-like human beings. After seeing the movie, the description of the hootch in the novel did not match the Greenies post in the movie. The movie only showed the hootch as a room with hundreds of candles all around it. There was nothing gruesome as depicted in the chapter. This is one of the many factors as to why the novel was better than the movie.


In conclusion, details involving the characters and symbolic meanings to objects are the factors that make the novel better than the movie. Leaving out aspects of the novel limits the viewers appreciation for the story. One may favor the film over the novel or vice versa, but that person will not overlook the intense work that went into the making of both. The film and novel have their similarities and differences, but both effectively communicate their meaning to the public.