Eventually, he moves to the Dominican Republic and falls helplessly in love with Ybon, a sex worker who lives near him. Beli Getting Pregnant The Brief Life Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a novel written by Junot Diaz, a Dominican writer. Oscar recovers from the beating, borrows money from Yunior, and returns to the Dominican Republic. This runs in parallel to several central themes of the novel regarding identity, as Yunior's code switching … She leaves for America in disgrace and meets the future father of Oscar and Lola on the plane to New York. After "getting dissed by a girl", he attempts to kill himself by drinking two bottles of liquor and jumping off the New Brunswick train bridge. He too is affected by the fuku curse that stems from a long history of oppression, and the only way for him to break free is to acknowledge his own culture while also adapting to his new surroundings in the United States. The narrator—later revealed to be Yunior, a Dominican American man loosely based on the author—introduces the concept of fukú americanus. Cabral is incarcerated, tortured and almost destroyed at least in part as a result of words he has spoken and written, and Trujillo has Cabral's entire library, including any sample of his handwriting, destroyed. 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. While the mongoose guides Beli, its presence is necessary for sugar production. Used to protect sugar cane fields from rat infestations, mongooses were pivotal in the DR's growing sugar economy. "[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. "[43], Comic books, science-fiction, and fantasy literature all play an important role in Oscar's upbringing and identity, and each is incorporated into the novel to reflect the world he lives in. [59], A staged version of the novel, called Fukú Americanus, was adapted by Sean San Jose and co-directed by San Jose and Marc Bamuthi Joseph through San Jose's Campo Santo theatre company in 2009. Díaz has said that to dismiss the novel's reflexivity with fiction and fantasy is to do to the novel "exactly what Oscar suffered from, which is that...Oscar's interests, his views of the world, were dismissed as illegitimate, as unimportant, as make-believe",[44] and that the novel asks the reader "to take not only Oscar seriously but his interests seriously. Depression weighs heavily on him, and his lack of social confidence keeps him more isolated than ever. 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. What more fantasy than the Antilles? My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary. Like the de Leon family, the mongoose is an immigrant, an invasive, non-native species. "[17], Oscar Wao also oscillates between English and Spanish. Subsequent sections detail Beli's backstory growing up as an orphan in the Dominican Republic after her father was imprisoned and her mother and two sisters died. The main characters, like Oscar and Lola, are down-and-out outsiders to many aspects of American and Dominican cultures. Beli desired the same romantic experience as Oscar, despising school in her early years from being "completely alone" (83). His culture of placing appearance above all else does nothing to deemphasize appearance in Dominican culture, seeing as in a normal political atmosphere people follow their leaders, much less in the tightly controlled Trujillan dictatorship. Struggling with distance learning? Oscar is a shy, overweight teenager who loves to read and write science fiction and fantasy and is searching for love. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary The novel begins with the narrator's description of the curse, called fukú americanus—a curse of doom, specifically that of the New World. Beli, the mother of Oscar and Lola, was raised in the Dominican Republic by her foster-mother (La Inca), who expected great things of her. Oscar de León (nicknamed Oscar Wao, a bastardization of Oscar Wilde) is an overweight Dominican growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. Furthermore, just as the singing mongoose leads Beli to safety, a singing voice leads Clives to Oscar. Yunior even makes reference in the footnotes to his present life earlier in the novel than when he describes it in Chapter Eight. On the other hand, Isis potentially coming to Yunior to learn more about her uncle represents gaining an understanding of the past, which is key to decolonizing and pinpointing the structures that are systematically oppressive. The curse itself is meant to be a defining factor of Dominican culture. He also respects Oscar's writing style and his ability to "write dialogue, crack snappy exposition, keep the narrative moving" (173). The many science fiction references throughout the novel and footnotes emphasize (Yunior believes) the fantastical elements of Dominican history. [22] This is coupled with other supernatural elements such as the man with no face and the mongoose. Abelard and Socorro's third child, a daughter they name Belicia, was born "black", a terrible thing for the Dominicans, who viewed having a child of "black complexion as an ill omen" (248). The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao contains several of the hallmarks of Latin American Magical Realism. Near the end of the book Diáz comprehensively links the fantasy world of Middle-Earth with the world of the Dominican Republic and the novel. He supports the regime in order to keep his family safe, but runs out of luck when Trujillo decides he wants to seduce Abelard’s beautiful oldest daughter Jacquelyn. The novel describes the history of relationships between dictators and journalists in terms of comic book rivalries as well: "Since before the infamous Caesar-Ovid war they've [dictators and writers] had beef. While the encounters with the creature may or may not have happened, their significance in the book still holds strong just like the superstitions, because "no matter what you believe, the fukú believes in you" (5). Her model-like body presented her with the relationships that she could have never attained otherwise. Oscar falls hopelessly in love, despite his family’s disapproval. There is also a strong suggestion that the fantastical element of Oscar's life is a powerful method for him to relate to other people and to the world around him. The re/appearances of canefields in Oscar Wao are symbolic. The mongoose is known for its sociability and cunning. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Yunior reminds the reader consistently that he is telling the story, as opposed to the story happening in its own right. He spends 27 days writing and stalking Ybon. So he's important enough to put up front. Lola decides to run away to be with a boy named Aldo, who lives with his aging father in Wildwood, NJ. He writes letters back to the States, but no one can persuade him to give up his obsession with Ybón. The gangster reveals that he is actually married to Trujillo’s sister, and that Beli will have to get rid of the child and disappear. [27] By combining all of these elements, Diaz creates a work of speculative fiction that holds various social critiques. This article focuses a feminist lens of criticism on the characters and their actions in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.Specifically, through the examination of this text in the feminist criticism, the author presents the idea that the masculinity of the Dominican men in the novel actually helps to shape strong, "no-nonsense, domineering women" (Heck, 2009, 1). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. 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. [64], Reexamining masculinity through Yunior and Oscar, Filling the blank pages – stories as "zafa" for the fukú of violence, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, 3rd ed., 2008, Thiem, Jon, "The Textualization of the Reader in Magical Realist Fiction" from, D'haen, Theo, "Magical realism and postmodernism: decentering privileged centers" from, Learn how and when to remove this template message, "Pulitzer winner stays true to Jersey roots", "Junot Díaz's Novel, 'Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,' Wins Pulitzer", "The Book Bench: This Week in Fiction: Questions for Junot Díaz", "New American short stories: The curse of machismo", "Junot Díaz reflects on love in his latest book", "Mortality Threats to Birds - Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus)", "Dueling Masculinities: Oscar's and Yunior's Journey to Manhood", "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao declared 21st century's best novel so far", "The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): An Introduction", "Best of the Millennium, Pros Versus Readers", "Pulitzer Prize-Winner Junot Díaz Writes the Book on Heartbreak (Video)", Audio recording of Junot Díaz reading from, The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Brief_Wondrous_Life_of_Oscar_Wao&oldid=991109881, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia articles with plot summary needing attention from February 2016, All Wikipedia articles with plot summary needing attention, Articles needing additional references from March 2015, All articles needing additional references, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 28 November 2020, at 09:08. Yunior implies that storytelling is a way to acknowledge the past and its influence over one's life, a way to make sense of what has happened, and is the starting point for healing. 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”. 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. He substitute teaches at his former high school and dreams about writing an epic work of science fiction. 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. She is horrified at first but softens and eventually has sex with Oscar. After being raised by an aunt, Beli enters into a relationship with a Gangster named Dionisio. "[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. Maybe you should be really, really alarmed. Reaching back further in history, the novel brings in Abelard Cabral, Beli’s father and Oscar and Lola’s grandfather. His speech often exemplifies code switching, switching rapidly from a lively, Caribbean-inflected vernacular, replete with frequent usage of profanity to wordy, eloquent, and academic prose. She gives all of her savings to the boy’s family and meets her mother at the airport. [29], Oscar’s story is not the only one that Yunior tells. Ybon's boyfriend's goons then find Oscar, take him back to the sugarcane fields, and kill him. Rather than return to teaching high school, Oscar asks Yunior for money. A doctor and a scholar, and heir to one of the more well-off Dominican families, Abelard wants nothing to do with Trujillo. 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. Similarly, the state of NJ is, itself, kind of a weird underdog. His great fear is that he will die a virgin. In 1937, for example, while the Friends of the Dominican Republic were perejiling Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans and Haitian-looking Dominicans to death, while genocide was, in fact, in the making, Abelard kept his head, eyes, and nose safely tucked into his books (let his wife take care of hiding his servants, didn't ask her nothing about it) and when survivors staggered into his surgery with unspeakable machete wounds, he fixed them up as best he could without making any comments as to the ghastliness of their wounds."[12]. She adapts to life as a real “dominicana” and starts to come to terms with her tangled family history. Furthermore, when Trujillo is referenced by Yunior in his narration, the descriptions are entirely negative. [29], Throughout the novel, Diaz uses metaphors and symbols to present Dominican history as well as the fuku curse. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao recounts the life of the title character, whose real name is Oscar de León. Teachers and parents! Lola’s strained relationship with her mother causes her to act out. The canefields are thus a violent space where Trujillo's henchpeople also take care of business. Mongooses appear throughout The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as guardians of the family. 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 decides to give the book to Lola’s daughter once she is old enough to wonder about her uncle and her own Dominican heritage. In Oscar Wao, it initially appears that the mongoose will serve a similar symbolic purpose. Perhaps, Oscar isn’t the “knight in shining armor” we may like him to be, and his death might not be considered the most honorable, but he does portray characteristics of an Aristotelian tragic hero. Actually, wait a minute. 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. As Oscar has no father or brothers, Yunior is the only male with whom he can discuss his romantic yearnings; Yunior is his access into masculinity. Lola is Oscar’s older sister, and her daughter serves as a symbol of the potential to break the fuku curse. 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. "[47] Díaz hints at possible latent abilities or qualities Oscar may possess that will reveal themselves or develop later in the novel. Abelard is taken by the Trujillato (Trujillo’s police) and thrown into prison for resisting Trujillo’s request, though rumors say that Abelard’s true crime was writing secret, slanderous books about Trujillo’s connection with the “fukú” curse. [32], Even when talking about Oscar, Yunior does not focus on the fact that he is nerdy and does not hide it, but rather makes allusions to science fiction and fantasy works that Oscar would be familiar with. Oscar desperately wants to be successful with women but, from a young age, is unable to find love, largely because he is a nerd obsessed with science fiction and comic books. 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 mongoose was transplanted westward to the Dominican Republic, just as Oscar's family was forced out of the Dominican Republic. Yunior and his friends give Oscar the nickname “Oscar Wao” and tease him mercilessly. 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. [40] In this section of the book Yunior says, "Canefields are no fucking joke, and even the cleverest of adults can get mazed in their endlessness, only to reappear months later as a cameo of bones". "[18], Oscar lives his life surrounded by the culture of fantasy and as Oscar describes them, "the more speculative genres",[19] and the language of these cultures is strewn throughout the book along with Spanish. The situation worsens when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and Lola decides to run away with her latest boyfriend. Explore a character analysis of Yunior, plot summary, and important quotes. ..."[7] The presence of Yunior's footnotes, therefore, remind the reader that there is always more to one's story. The beginning of chapter two also features the use of second person narration, rarely used in literature. Her loneliness derived from her "defensive and aggressive and mad overactive" personality that pushed people miles away from her. Diaz creates irony using this strong dictator as a minor character and focusing on the characters that would have otherwise been marginalized. Beli lives with her aunt, La Inca, in Baní, a fairly poor neighborhood of Santo Domingo. Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto...Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest. 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. 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. Yunior attempts to reform Oscar in the image of the Dominican American “player,” but Oscar resists this transformation. After recovering from her initial shock of the metamorphosis, she discovered how "her desirability was in its own way, Power" (94). Unlike Oscar, however, her predicament reversed, becoming not one of a lack of power, but an abundance. The novel returns to Lola’s perspective, as she prepares to come back to the States from her year in Santo Domingo. The mongoose further stops a bus directly in front of her, preventing her from being hit and providing her transportation to safety. How di… [28] This arrangement destabilizes established power hierarchies, putting more emphasis on the seemingly least powerful characters and taking power away from the most prominent and infamous characters. Each time the mysterious animal appears in a time of dire need, the narrator includes a disclaimer on the accuracy in the visions of the creature. Virtually all the relationships in the book – Trujillo and Abelard, Beli and the Gangster, Beli and Lola, Oscar and Ybón – are marked with physical or emotional abuse. With these new curves she was thrown into a world where she could get what she wanted, where she was given attention without having to ask for it. A lot of the emotions and the atmosphere laid out in Oscar's canefield scene parallels Beli's. With her dark skin and headstrong manner, Beli does not fit in at her prestigious private school. [50] Díaz connects the removal of masks with both the intimacy that springs from vulnerability and the concept of identity, hidden or otherwise. This symbolic relationship is heightened by the transient nature of the mongoose, disappearing as suddenly as it appears. His speech often exemplifies code switching, switching rapidly from a lively, Caribbean-inflected vernacular, replete with frequent usage of profanity to wordy, eloquent, and academic prose. [60] The production received mixed reviews, with critic Robert Hurwitt stating that "'Fukú' doesn't show us how that works or what the curse has to do with anything ... for that, you have to read the book. 1 chapter 2 summary the best teacher resource I have ever purchased father Wildwood! Inheritance of the `` fukú '' or curse that haunts the Cabrals and de Leons the,. Reform Oscar in the canefield, the mongoose guides Beli, is sold as a and... Mongooses appear throughout the Brief Wondrous Life of the year '' book.... 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