The dancing girl is featured only in the story "Style," but serves as a poignant symbol for the chaos and meaninglessness of war. Azar is put-off by the fact that the girl keeps dancing, even though her family is dead and her village is burned to the ground—he can't find any meaning in it. This closely parallels Tim O'Brien's constant insistence that there is no moral to a war story: no right or wrong, no core point. The dancing girl is symbolic of this amorality and senselessness that pervades the soldier's feelings and actions throughout their time in Vietnam, as well as those who found difficulty finding any purpose in life after the war ended (e.g. Norman Bowker).
The Dancing Girl Symbol Timeline in The Things They Carried
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Dancing Girl appears in The Things They Carried. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...evening, after they had marched away from the destroyed village, Azar started to move like the dancing girl mockingly. Henry Dobbins who was graceful for a big man, went over and picked up... (full context)