“Only The Dead Know Brooklyn” is a short story by Thomas Wolfe written entirely in “Brooklynese” accent. At first, I had difficulty understanding what I was reading due to the fact that I was not quiet familiar of the dialect that was being used. But, as the story progresses, I’ve come to appreciate this because it shows more insight unto the characters backgrounds and environment — plus I thought it adds “realness” and “life” to it.
Including the narrator telling the story, we get to meet three other unnamed characters described as the “big guy”, “little guy” and “wise guy”.
“Big guy” was asking directions to “Bensonhoist” (Bensonhurst without the dialect), while the “little guy” didn’t know much about Brooklyn, the narrator helped out the “big guy” instead, but, then came in the “wise guy” that gave a different route that causes a little friction between him and the narrator. Before any trouble starts, the narrator and “big guy” gets into the train and discussed more about the city. The narrator learned that the reason why the “big guy” is looking for Bensonhurst is because he “just goin’ out to see duh place” and he “like duh sound of duh name – Bensonhoist”. The “big guy” proceeds to show the narrator a map that displays the places he visited so far or where he wants to go next; like Flatbush, Bay Ridge, and Red Hook. Although the narrator finds this odd, the two men continued talking till they got to the topic of swimming and drowning. Realizing the strange behavior of the “big guy” about drowning, concluding that he’s insane, the narrator then decided to get off the train before his stop.
Personally, I thought the story was quiet comical. When the narrator and “wise guy” gave out two different directions, it’s funny because this truly pictures the subway system of NYC, for those who are familiar, New York subway is laid out in superfluous manner that you can go to a certain place with more than one different route. So if you think about it, “Wise Guy” and narrator can both be right either way. Another thing, the characters have trouble communicating and making a connection because of their different perspectives — like the narrator & “wise guy” unto the Bensonhurst direction and “big guy” communicating in a metaphorical way while the narrator is more of a practical and literal guy. The “big guy” is all about discovering more through his explorations of the city, but the narrator dismisses this and keeps a narrow mind, instead, he thinks it’s dangerous, that “it’s a good place to stay away from”, even though he’s probably never been there. I also think the these two men reflects how there are two types on how people face life in general, one who is on pursuit of knowledge and curious as to what is out there, while the other one who is content at what is already right in front of him and in the comfort of knowing already instead of going further.