The “Drama of Gender Difference,” or the Question of Masculinity and Patriarchy in the Vietnam War FictionIrina Strout
Many changes brought about by the Vietnam war are reflected in the literature of the period, in which both Vietnam veterans and non-veterans alike became formative creators. Included among the Vietnam war writers are poets, playwrights, and fiction writers such as David Rabe, Oliver Stone, Gustav Hasford, Philip Caputo, Winston Groom, Robert Olen Butler and many others. Tim O’Brien and Bobbie Ann Mason also take their place in the gallery of Vietnam war writers, being included among the authors who relish life’s enigmas and uncertainties in their fiction. They incorporate elements of their own life (Bobbie Ann Mason) and war experience (Tim O’Brien) into their fiction, blurring the line between reality and fantasy, fiction and truth. The accuracy of characters or events and places is not significant in their writings, as they are more interested in the emotions and feelings of their men and women rather than in mere facts. Understanding oneself as a writer is a hard journey; it is a quest that authors struggle to complete and may never fulfill. War fiction plays its part in making a significant contribution to the understanding of the Vietnam War as it enlarges the psychology of homosocial relations and deconstructs the conventional stereotypes of masculinity: from a wounded veteran to a John Wayne type hero. Men in many novels are sympathetic characters betrayed by political and cultural myths. Women are often excluded from the male war arena as the ‘Other’, yet they face a number of challenges, and their roles are intrinsic to the male experience. In this paper two works of fiction will be discussed which deal with the exclusion of women, rejection of femininity and restitution of masculinity. These works are Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country.