On his mother’s birthday, Little Dog buys clothes with her at Goodwill. He compares the big pile of items in their shopping cart to a “bounty of discarded treasures” to indicate that he feels like a rich person.
A Silent Arctic Landscape (Metaphor)
After Lan’s panic attack, Little Dog compares his family to a “silent arctic landscape” because the room is dark and grey at night, and the family members lying on the floor resemble a mountain range. The adjective “arctic” also emphasizes the placid state of the sleeping family.
The World's Smallest Ambulances (Metaphor)
After the bullying incident on the bus, Little Dog kicks his shoes so the red lights in the soles flare. He mentions that they are “the world’s smallest ambulances, going nowhere,” which indicates that they provide a little comfort after he has been physically and psychologically hurt, but he also realizes that they cannot eliminate the underlying problem of being an outcast.
Wearing English like a Mask (Simile)
Since his mother cannot express herself in English, Little Dog says that he took off his own language and wore English “like a mask” so that others would see his face, and therefore his mother’s. By using the new language, he (and therefore his mother) is able to assume a new identity and become more accepted in American society.
Corpses Piling Up (Metaphor)
At a birthday party, Lan suddenly starts singing a Vietnamese song about a woman wandering among corpses and looking for her sister. Even though Little Dog and his mother try to make Lan stop, she continues the song, bringing a part of the Vietnam War into the room. Little Dog creates a vivid image by employing the metaphor of “the glasses clinking as the corpses, fleshed from Lan’s mouth, piled up around us.”
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.