On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Summary and Analysis of Part Two: 4-6


We are located in Trevor's home. The first thing Little Dog tells us is that "the living room was miserable with laughter." Trevor's father is drunk as he watches television. Little Dog and Trevor have fun amongst themselves behind him, though Little Dog notices a scar on Trevor's neck, where his father injured him with a nail gun.

Trevor and Little Dog ride their bikes along the Connecticut River and can see the city on both sides. This moment becomes one in which Little Dog maps the geography of the town.

Little Dog looks to his side of the river—the side Trevor knows nothing about, having lived his entire life on the “white side”—and sees Asylum Avenue, where there used to be an actual asylum but it is now home to an Indian family from New Delhi. There is a tenement building where Little Dog used to live and ride his pink Schwinn. He sees the parking lot of the church where a friend’s sister overdosed on drugs. Little Dog and Trevor ride towards Main Street, leaving the people on the other side of the river behind. Riding up a hill, they see the sprawling houses of the wealthy.

Trevor points and says a famous basketball player lives up there. Trevor says that if that guy was his dad, Little Dog could always come and stay at their house. Little Dog reminds Trevor that he already has a father, but Trevor tells Little Dog to ignore his father and not let him upset Little Dog. It is the alcohol that gets to him, Trevor remarks. Little Dog claims he isn’t upset about Trevor’s father and grows quiet and distant. “Hey, don’t do the fuckin’ silent thing, man,” Trevor says. “It’s a fag move.” They sit for a few more minutes, get back on their bikes, and head for home.

The structure of Little Dog’s letter changes, and his writing turns to poetry. Little Dog writes of things attributed to Trevor: his rusty pickup truck, his blue jeans, the comma-shaped scar on his neck, how he drives at 50 miles per hour, and his shotgun. Little Dog writes of Trevor loading a shotgun, of Trevor in the rain, and of Trevor begging him, saying “Please tell me I am not a faggot. Am I?” Trevor is referred to as the “hunter,” the “redneck,” not Trevor the “pansy,” “fruit or fairy.” Trevor is not veal, not since his father told him what veal is. “The veal are the children,” Trevor’s father said once.

Veal are calves put into a box, Little Dog explains, where they are kept alive. They aren’t permitted to move or put weight on their muscles, so they stay tender and better tasting. “We love eatin’ what’s soft,” Trevor’s father once said, staring Trevor “dead” in the eyes. “Every box will be opened in time,” Little Dog says, “in language.”

There is blood in Little Dog’s mouth, and the rusty truck is totaled under a tree. Trevor texts Little Dog after two months of silence. Little Dog claims memory is “a second chance,” and a calf sits in a “box tighter than a womb,” waiting. Little Dog puts his head to Trevor’s chest and listens "like an animal learning how to speak.”


This section exposes multiple fault lines and tensions surrounding race, gender, and sexuality.

The forced laughter—presumably some sort of laugh track—on the television is at odds with the oppressiveness of Trevor’s living room, as is the laughter between the boys. Trevor’s father has a drinking problem, and he is very abusive if he has a history of shooting Trevor with a nail gun. Trevor’s father’s reference to Little Dog as “that China boy” is racist and insensitive, and he implies that Trevor’s uncle did the world a favor by killing people like Little Dog during the Vietnam War. His comment that he hears and sees “things” implies that perhaps he really knows the truth about Trevor’s sexuality and his relationship with Little Dog.

The division of Hartford into a white side and, by extension, a non-white side reflects the segregation and racism of American society. Even in the absence of formal segregation, white flight—the movement of white people away from people of color—effectively ensures that divisions based on arbitrarily drawn racial difference still exists.

Trevor and Little Dog’s interactions mimic heteronormative gender roles and also reveal their oppressiveness. Trevor plays the masculine role, singing aggressive rap songs and establishing power over Little Dog. Little Dog’s role in this respect is figured as more reserved and feminine—the opposite of how he is supposed to act according to society. Popular assumptions of masculinity say Little Dog must be strong and macho to be a “real” man, just as popular assumptions dictate that to be American is to also be white. Little Dog is neither masculine nor American in this sense, so he is drawn to the impostor painting in Trevor's room. In this moment, Trevor, too, is at odds with traditional notions of masculinity. He hides his tears in the dark because he buys into the idea that men aren’t supposed to cry, and he cries because he fears his sexuality means he isn’t a “real” man.

Marin illustrates the consequences of challenging gender norms. Little Dog's remark about Marin’s Adam’s apple implies that she is a transgender woman. This blurring of traditional gender roles makes the neighborhood men uncomfortable. The derogatory names and threats Marin is subjected to further reflect the discrimination that the queer community faces.

Another radical change occurs in the following chapter: the prose becomes poetry. The prose is grueling, tender, and heart-wrenching, showcasing the complex relationship between Little Dog and Trevor. While Little Dog learned new lessons about love and sexuality with Trevor, it was also the site of violent encounters and disruption. Little Dog’s switch to poetry reflects the importance of writing and language in the novel. His reference to Trevor’s scar as “syntax of what next what next what next” again reflects Little Dog’s theory of the comma representing continuation. The poem is like a stream of consciousness, but he still focuses on language, writing, and traditional notions of masculinity.