In "The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," we don't know if Mary Anne is dead, but how is that considered ambiguity technically?I understand the difference between ambiguity and the unknown, but I...

In "The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," we don't know if Mary Anne is dead, but how is that considered ambiguity technically?

I understand the difference between ambiguity and the unknown, but I just can't figure out the reasoning on why this particular part is considered ambiguity.

Expert Answers
teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," Mary Anne has become a warrior and goes off into the jungle.  O'Brien, however, does not state what actually happens to Mary Anne once she leaves and goes out on her own.  This cannot be considered unknown--information that is considered unknown are parts of the story that are usually unimportant.  Unknown information does not beg for an interpretation from the reader.  Information that is ambiguous, on the other hand, is information that is usually left out for a purpose and thus may be interpreted in a variety of ways.  In The Things They Carried, there are lots of things that are unknown, but the reader does not ponder these things because they would not shed light on the story.  Mary Anne's disappearance, however, makes the reader consider all the possibilities of what may have happened to her:  she could be dead; she could be still wandering the jungle; she could have taken up with a group of soldiers; she could now be a prisoner.  This variability makes her situation ambiguous.

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The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong

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