Horrifying Effects of a Senseless War
Dirty Work is an irresistible debut novel from one of the greatest novelist in American literature today. Throughout each chapter, Larry Brown creatively changes the narrator between the two main characters, which works magnificently. He is bold and decisive in his telling of two disabled individuals being tormented by the physical and emotional hell they withstand in the everlasting Vietnam.
Braiden Chainey has no arms or legs due to a machine gun (73). Walter James, thanks to a rocket grenade, no longer has his face (66). As they lay side by side in their separate beds in a V.A. hospital 22 years later, their wounds still ache. These two Mississippians, one white and one black, tell each other their horrendous stories. One by one, they take turns describing the details of their lives and the outcome wanted for their future.
Many old themes of literature are invoked in this astonishing tale of hatred, emotion, vengeance, and even passion. Their vivid memories portray the true reality of how that horrifying war gave the veterans the unforgettable long-term effects. Dirty Work is an extraordinary novel, which continuously shows the harsh realities of a powerful war.
The two main characters in this novel are compelling. Every feature and emotion mentioned about each individual are so realistic that they are unforgettable. From their family background to their scars of war, each and every aspect is told with such detail and brilliance that the story almost comes to life.
Brown utilizes southern slang to the greatest. When Braiden and Walter speak to each other, they perfectly mimic the mistakes and shortenings of everyday southern speech. Most of the dialect indicates brilliantly the way that people whom the author might have encountered at times in his life may have spoken. In one passage, Walter speaks with a nurse, showing their strong southern culture coming out through speech:
“Where’d you learn that song?”
“Known that all my life, So you one of them
Dirty Work is strongly in the tradition of a classic war book with some southern heritage. The emotional, yet sometimes humorous characters give the novel such life that it is hard to put it down until it is over. Brown certainly succeeds with his first novel, which is a magnificent examination of the way the wounds, physical and emotional, that generation endured so many years ago, still haunt those who both loved and cared for the brave soldiers who were wounded in this senseless war.
Brown, Larry. Dirty Work. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.