[27] By combining all of these elements, Diaz creates a work of speculative fiction that holds various social critiques. This runs in parallel to several central themes of the novel regarding identity, as Yunior's code switching alludes to a struggle between his Dominican identity and his identity as a writer. Similarly, Oscar remembers a "Golden Mongoose" which appeared just before he throws himself from the bridge [38] and again when he is beaten in the canefield for the first time. Oscar falls into a deep depression and attempts suicide on the last day of the school year. It might have been a consequence being Antillean (who more sci-fi than us?) Díaz creates a distinct link between human beings' performative nature and the masks required to express it, and the masks worn by superheroes. Oscar falls hopelessly in love, despite his family’s disapproval. Oscar's infinite capacity for empathy and connection with other human beings is a superpower in its own right. Told by Oscar’s college roommate, Yunior, the book also includes flashbacks into the lives of Oscar’s mother and his grandfather, as they suffered during the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic and finally came to America. Unlike Oscar, however, her predicament reversed, becoming not one of a lack of power, but an abundance. Her model-like body presented her with the relationships that she could have never attained otherwise. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao can be used as an example of speculative fiction. Even a woman as potent as La Inca, who with the elvish ring of her will had forged within Banί her own personal Lothlόrien, knew that she could not protect the girl against a direct assault from the Eye. At the very beginning of the novel, it is explained that zafa is the "one way to prevent disaster from coiling around you, only one surefire counterspell that would keep you and your family safe" (7). Interweaved throughout, Yunior also tries to explain and understand his own failed relationship with Oscar’s sister, Lola, and the Dominican heritage that binds them all together. Speculative fiction is a sub-category of fiction that deals with ideas that are not directly real, but rather imaginative or futuristic. The arrival of his novel (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) in 2007 prompted a minor re-appraisal of Diaz's earlier work. Furthermore, just as the singing mongoose leads Beli to safety, a singing voice leads Clives to Oscar. Narrated by multiple characters, the novel incorporates a significant amount of Spanglish and neologisms, as well as references to fantasy and science fiction books and films. VanBeest points out that in spite Oscar's lack of machismo, he possesses "other masculine traits that Yunior admires." "[45] Díaz has said that this question can be read as being directed at the reader, "because in some ways, depending on how you answer that question, it really decides whether you're Galactus or not. Maybe you should be really, really alarmed. The canefields are thus a violent space where Trujillo's henchpeople also take care of business. Rather than return to teaching high school, Oscar asks Yunior for money. [63] According to Díaz, Miramax's rights on the book have since expired. This runs in parallel to several central themes of the novel regarding identity, as Yunior's code switching … He spends 27 days writing and stalking Ybon. Her father was imprisoned after failing to bring his wife and daughter to meet some government officials, as he fears they will be taken by them. The mongoose was transplanted westward to the Dominican Republic, just as Oscar's family was forced out of the Dominican Republic. One section is a first person narrative from the perspective of Oscar's sister, Lola, explaining her struggles to get along with their headstrong mother, Beli. As she grows into a great and “terrible beauty,” boy-crazy Beli begins to catch the eye of the wrong type of men. Whether or not this creature is a figment of the young woman's imagination, it led her to safety and provided hope in a situation where death seemed imminent. Even under Trujillo, however, the power of appearance is called into the question, as appearance's power ultimately takes second place to the power of words. Yunior is given the power to represent Trujillo which lessens Trujillos dominance in the power scale, allowing the novel to have a strong stance against the dictatorship, stripping Trujillo of the meaning behind his title. Yunior cites the fall of Mordor and the dispelling of evil from Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings as a complement to the fall of Trujillo.[9]. [29], Oscar’s story is not the only one that Yunior tells. He is constantly deemed not masculine enough by those around him, and he does not follow the norms of his Dominican culture. The narrator—later revealed to be Yunior, a Dominican American man loosely based on the author—introduces the concept of fukú americanus. As Trujillo never attempts to sleep with Jackie, the narrator and reader are left to wonder if at some level the motivation for this family ruin has to do with silencing a powerful voice. Also, Díaz references Stephen King on a number of occasions, including a reference to Captain Trips, the fictional virus that wipes out mankind in The Stand, as well as two references to its characters, Harold Lauder, compared to Oscar, and to Mother Abigail, compared to La Inca. The re/appearances of canefields in Oscar Wao are symbolic. ..."[7] The presence of Yunior's footnotes, therefore, remind the reader that there is always more to one's story. The footnotes contain many references specifically to the reign of Rafael Trujillo from 1930 to 1961, providing historical background on figures like the Mirabal Sisters,[10] who were assassinated by Trujillo, and Anacaona, an indigenous woman who fought against the invading Spanish colonialists. In having this character take on such a surreal nature with characteristics not found in most mongooses, such as the ability to talk and vanishing in the blink of an eye, Díaz establishes an uncertainty that mirrors the controversies over whether superstitions exist. The fantastical elements of the novel take place in both New Jersey and in the Dominican Republican, this establishes a real world setting for these events which blends the natural with the supernatural, another attribute of Magical Realism. He survives, and Yunior tries to help Lola pick up the pieces of her life, but mostly struggles to maintain the large network of girls he is sleeping with. Similarly, the state of NJ is, itself, kind of a weird underdog. While Oscar studies creative writing at Rutgers University, Yunior becomes his roommate in order to get closer to Lola, with whom he is infatuated. [32] By reconstructing the De Leon family story, and not letting the characters speak for themselves, Yunior subconsciously follows the ‘Trujillan model of narration’, suppressing their own stories for his own mental gain whether it be a recreated connection to Lola, his ex-girlfriend or Oscar, his friend. Canefields are where enslaved Africans were forced into labor and dehumanization. Oscar is a Dominican-American who grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, and struggled his whole life to find community, a sense of identity, and, above all, love. Although in the story her character does not know her own role, she must accept and embrace her Dominican culture to break the curse. It also differentiates race and gender in the Dominican Republic. Yunior peppers the English-speaking novel with Spanish vocabulary and phrases and certain English sentences are built with Spanish syntax: "Beli might have been a puta major in the cosmology of her neighbors but a cuero she was not. They also have completely opposite values: while Yunior cheats habitually and can't appreciate even the most beautiful and loving women, Oscar is faithful and sees beauty in a middle-aged prostitute; while Yunior doesn't value sex for anything other than physical pleasure (at least not at first), Oscar refuses to go to brothels (279). Díaz has stated the importance of the mongoose as being alien, creating an other-worldly quality to its assistance. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey in the United States, where Díaz was raised, and it deals with the Dominican Republic experience under dictator Rafael Trujillo. Depression weighs heavily on him, and his lack of social confidence keeps him more isolated than ever. Code switching between Spanish and English is also central to the narrative itself of the book, as characters switch back and forth as they see fit. Yunior and Oscar are character foils that illustrate two different types of masculinity: if Oscar's nerdiness, fatness and awkwardness make him the antithesis of Dominican hypermasculinity, then Yunior, as a Don Juan and a state school player who can "bench 340 pounds" (170), is the embodiment of that identity. Diaz shows that the mistakes made in Oscar’s family lead to Oscar’s fate, providing a cautionary tale for the future of Dominican culture in a fantastical context. The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar's runaway sister, Lola; his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral; and his grandfather, Abelard. She is horrified at first but softens and eventually has sex with Oscar. [29] This sense of uncertainty towards this fantastical curse allows the novel to speculate as to how it can be broken. Chapter One (paperback pages 11 - 50) for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" If you can help improve this in any way, please drop me an email (in English) and I'd be happy to change it - this is just what I was able to cobble together. He is invested with the telling of their story, but is simultaneously reserved. Lola is sent to the DR to attend school and live with her great-aunt. Disregarding these barbs, Oscar strikes up an unlikely friendship with a beautiful girl on campus, but is shattered when she continues to see other guys. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz A family curse, a tropical island, a love-stricken underdog, a kind and beautiful woman with a torrid past: it sounds like the setup for a … In an interview with Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz comments: "For me, though, the real issue in the book is not whether or not one can vanquish the fukú—but whether or not one can even see it. [54] The book won the John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize,[55] the Dayton Peace Prize in Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. Title character Oscar Wao and his sister Lola each break with the rigid preset masculine and feminine ideals, respectively, that have defined and shaped their culture for generations. [1] The book chronicles both the life of Oscar de León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels and with falling in love, as well as a curse that has plagued his family for generations. This novel examines some of the most trying and important aspects of the lifestyles of those of Dominican descent. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. After high school, Oscar attends Rutgers University. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao makes extensive use of footnotes to the point that many of the characters are developed in the footnotes in addition to the story. She has a daughter, Isis, and keeps in contact with Yunior in honor of Oscar’s memory. Instant downloads of all 1389 LitChart PDFs Yunior's masculinity echoes that of Trujillo, who in his violent actions and lust for women, also embodies Dominican hypermasculinity. [29], Throughout the novel, Diaz uses metaphors and symbols to present Dominican history as well as the fuku curse. His first book "Drown" was now being widely recognized as an important landmark in contemporary literature—ten years after publication—even by critics who had either entirely ignored the book or had given it poor reviews. Rife with footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, comic book analogies, and various Spanish dialects, the novel is also a meditation on story-telling, the Dominican diaspora and identity, sexuality, and oppression. Brief phrases relating to games like Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop role-playing game terms are used as common colloquialisms: "He [Oscar] could have refused, could have made a saving throw against Torture, but instead he went with the flow."[20]. Instead of Díaz directly telling the story to the reader, he creates an aesthetic distance by speaking through the novel's narrator Yunior. Oscar is a shy, overweight teenager who loves to read and write science fiction and fantasy and is searching for love. Yunior describes Oscar’s childhood as a Dominican American boy in Paterson, New Jersey, and the struggles that Oscar faces as he fails to fit in with the Latino community or get a girlfriend. Part 1, Introduction Summary. Beli lives with her aunt, La Inca, in Baní, a fairly poor neighborhood of Santo Domingo. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Analysis Essay; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Analysis Essay. Trujillo's rapacity towards women knew no bounds, employing "hundreds of spies whose entire job was to scour the provinces for his next piece of ass" (217). Maritza’s beauty and popularity in the face of Olga’s ugliness and isolation also introduces the theme of racism in the book. Trujillo's appetite for ass was "insatiable" (217), pushing him to do unspeakable things. The mongoose is known for its sociability and cunning. The novel’s plot is intricately bound up with the notion of Fukú Americanus, which is “generally a curse of doom of some kind; specifically, the Curse or Doom of the New World”. My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary. Trujillo's reign as revealed in the footnotes of the novel becomes just as dystopian as one of Oscar's favorite science fiction novels. "[49] Oscar's vast memory of comic books and Fantasy/Science-fiction is recalled whenever he is involved in the text, and his identity is multiform, composed of scraps of comic book marginalia. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao went on to win numerous awards in 2008, such as the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[2]. VanBeest argues that Oscar "succeeds in educating Yunior, indirectly, in the responsibilities of manhood; after Oscar's death, Yunior claims that it is Oscar's influence that encourages him to stop following the dictates of el machismo and finally settle down and get married." Oscar takes no notice and receives a harsh beating when the Capitán sees and! Cabral, Beli does not follow the norms of his Life present Life earlier in the the! To choose whether or not to take advantage of her, preventing from! A bid to assert his identity and find love Díaz has stated the importance of the `` fukú '' curse. 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