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. The mongoose was transplanted westward to the Dominican Republic, just as Oscar's family was forced out of the Dominican Republic. 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. Díaz's use of Yunior as the main narrator of the book strengthens the idea of the novel as metafiction. 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. For example, when Beli is beaten in the canefield, a "creature that would have been an amiable mongoose if not for its golden lion eyes and the absolute black of its pelt" [37] motivates Beli and sings to her to guide her out of the canefield. After high school, Oscar attends Rutgers University. In the story of Oscar Wao (a mishearing of " Oscar Wilde "), the fukú is responsible for the death of Oscar’s grandfather, Abelard, and two of his three beautiful daughters, as well as the suffering of the much younger third daughter (Oscar’s mother). Many of the footnotes ultimately connect back to themes of coming to a new world (underscored through the novel's references to fantasy and sci-fi) or having one's own world completely changed. [42] For example, Yunior envies the way Oscar can develop friendships with women (like Jenni) and talk to them about non-sexual topics. Violence is an aspect of the "fukú" or curse that haunts the Cabrals and de Leons. 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. She has a daughter, Isis, and keeps in contact with Yunior in honor of Oscar’s memory. "In my first draft, Samaná was actually Jarabacoa, but then my girl Leonie, resident expert in all things Domo, pointed out that there are no beaches in Jarabacoa. Through Yunior and Oscar's friendship, Díaz critically examines Dominican machismo and shows how it can lead to violence and an inability to connect with others. She leaves for America in disgrace and meets the future father of Oscar and Lola on the plane to New York. 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. "[44], The novel opens with the epigraph: "Of what import are brief, nameless lives…to Galactus? The main characters, like Oscar and Lola, are down-and-out outsiders to many aspects of American and Dominican cultures. The novel, that was written in 2007, is about Oscar and his family’s experiences. Like his mother years before, Oscar survives and goes back to the States to heal. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao recounts the life of the title character, whose real name is Oscar de León. She adapts to life as a real “dominicana” and starts to come to terms with her tangled family history. What more fantasy than the Antilles? The book shares the story of Oscar Wao (whose real name is Oscar de León), a Dominican American who never fits in with his communities, as he tries to assert his own identity and find love in the process. 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”. [27] In order to emphasize the brutality of the past, the novel blends aspects of sci-fi and fantasy with horror as well as popular culture. As written in footnotes, the Mirabal sisters were murdered there, too. Diaz creates irony using this strong dictator as a minor character and focusing on the characters that would have otherwise been marginalized. Yunior also has hope that Isis, Lola's daughter, will one day come to him asking for stories about her family history, and "if she's smart and as brave as I'm expecting she'll be, she'll take all we've done and all we've learned and add her own insights and she'll put an end to it [the fukú]" (331). We lied. Beli desired the same romantic experience as Oscar, despising school in her early years from being "completely alone" (83). Yunior thus builds a context for the Dominican history, where the characters are used just as much in the footnotes as they are in the body of the novel. 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. 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. My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary. [31] Because of the way that the story is narrated, the readers get a comprehensive view of the cultural factors that surround Oscar that ultimately lead to his tragic death. Yunior gives it to him as a peace offering to Lola, with whom he is fighting again, but does not know that Oscar will use it to go back to Ybón. Yunior also adds footnotes throughout the book with humorous asides, stories of Dominican history, or quotes from other books that help illuminate Oscar’s life. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Part 1, Introduction-Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis. 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. Mongooses appear throughout The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as guardians of the family. She is horrified at first but softens and eventually has sex with Oscar. With the absence of any embodiments of white characters to emphasize the lasting impact of the colonial imaginary, the mysticism behind the fuku and zafa become that much more convincing. [33] Yunior also shows that he and Oscar were not so different after all, but the difference was in the fact that Oscar was not able to hide the fact that he was an outcast while Yunior was able to fit in while keeping his unique qualities and interests to himself.[33]. [11] While referencing historical figures, Yunior frequently includes the novel's fictional characters in the historical events. Introduction. "[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. 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. 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. 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 novel uses history to set the scene and create its social and political commentary. [29], Throughout the novel, Diaz uses metaphors and symbols to present Dominican history as well as the fuku curse. After recovering from her initial shock of the metamorphosis, she discovered how "her desirability was in its own way, Power" (94). At the most superficial level, the mongoose can be equated with the zafa, the counter-spell to the family's fukú. 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). The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. She gets back in touch with Oscar, planning to meet him at a café, but their mother catches her there. Abelard Luis Cabral, Oscar's grandfather, learned this first hand after repeatedly refusing to bring his first-born daughter Jacquelyn to Trujillo's events. Still, Yunior proves his friendship by coming back to room with Oscar for another year. "[15], His informal and frequent use of neologisms can be seen in sentences such as a description of Trujillo as "the Dictatingest Dictator who ever Dictated"[16] or his description of the effectiveness of Trujillo's secret police force: "you could say a bad thing about El Jefe at eight-forty in the morning and before the clock struck ten you'd be in the Cuarenta having a cattleprod shoved up your ass. During his imprisonment, Socorro committed suicide, Jackie "was found drowned" in a pool, Astrid is struck by a stray bullet, and his third child is born (248-250). When describing Oscar's deep love of science fiction and fantasy literature, Yunior continues in the footnotes: "Where this outsized love of genre jumped off from no one quite seems to know. Lola decides to run away to be with a boy named Aldo, who lives with his aging father in Wildwood, NJ. When he and his sister Lola spend summers with their great-aunt in the Dominican Republic (DR), Oscar realizes that he wants to become an author. The book starts by introducing Yunior, the fictional author of Oscar Wao’s biography, and the curse that has shaped the events of Oscar’s life. Both political critique and metafiction are typical features of Magical Realism.[24][25]. [63] According to Díaz, Miramax's rights on the book have since expired. Because of this, Trujillo has an important role in the story, but is ultimately weakened due to the given perspective. Oscar may never get what he wants. Through its overarching theme of the fukú curse, it additionally contains elements of magic realism. Yunior provides analysis and commentary for the events he is relaying 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. It also differentiates race and gender in the Dominican Republic. Lola describes the summer she leaves: Oscar dedicates his life to designing role-playing games, and her mother works two jobs and came home exhausted. "[46] In the Fantastic Four comic book however, Galactus is asking the question of Uatu the Watcher, whose role is played out in Díaz's novel by the narrator Yunior, indicating to Díaz that the question is both a "question to the reader but also a question to writers in general."[46]. The canefields are thus a violent space where Trujillo's henchpeople also take care of business. His great fear is that he will die a virgin. The Quick Marvelous Life of Oscar Wao. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Back in Paterson, Oscar becomes obsessed with a girl named Ana, threatening her abusive boyfriend with a gun. The connection between a superstition and a magical character is more easily followed than one with an ordinary animal, highlighting the mongoose being a zafa against the de Leon's fukú. Introduction Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the story of Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. Explore a character analysis of Yunior, plot summary, and important quotes. No one finds out about Oscar’s plan until he is on the plane to the DR. Oscar stays for a month at La Inca’s house before he sees Ybón again. Her greatest love, known as the Gangster, works for the dictator Trujillo, and Beli soon finds herself in way over her head when she gets pregnant. Lola marries a Cuban man and moves to Miami. Similarly, the state of NJ is, itself, kind of a weird underdog. The canefields in the Dominican Republic are a space made significant through their history of slavery and violence—a racialized space. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Ybon's boyfriend's goons then find Oscar, take him back to the sugarcane fields, and kill him. Despite their differences, Yunior and Oscar become important to each other and develop an unusual friendship. If the book's called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, then why is the madman Rafael Leónidas Trujillo one of the first characters we meet in it? By utilizing her appearance, she gained a complete understanding of the influences of her body. It was brought over to the islands of Antilles when the Europeans came, and has stayed ever since. Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers! Ybón’s biggest client, the Capitán, starts to take notice of how much time Oscar and Ybón spend together, and he threatens them with violence. As for Yunior, Oscar models an alternative form of masculinity and ultimately pushes him to reexamine his ideas about manhood. 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. The narrator—later revealed to be Yunior, a Dominican American man loosely based on the author—introduces the concept of fukú americanus. His actions eventually resulted in Trujillo arranging for his arrest and eighteen-year sentence, where he was brutally beaten and treated to an endless series of electric shock treatments (237). The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao is a book written by Junot Díaz. 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). ..."[7] The presence of Yunior's footnotes, therefore, remind the reader that there is always more to one's story. Oscar recuperates and graduates from Rutgers. Díaz creates a distinct link between human beings' performative nature and the masks required to express it, and the masks worn by superheroes. To be a true witness to who we are as a people and to what has happened to us. By actively disparaging the brutal dictator, Diaz breaks social and cultural norms about how common people function in a power hierarchy. He is invested with the telling of their story, but is simultaneously reserved. 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. Yunior reminds the reader consistently that he is telling the story, as opposed to the story happening in its own right. [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. Kind of like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. They felt so strongly about this that Yunior, offering his own opinion, comments "I doubt anybody inside the family wanted her to live, either" (252). In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, author Junot Diaz provides a commentary on the social atmosphere of the Dominican culture in relation to a set of pre-established gender roles. The idea that an individual has the power the change the effects of the curse in their own life is a way for the novel to show that Dominican culture can be changed in a way that marginalized people can have power. [29], Oscar’s story is not the only one that Yunior tells. Oscar pursues girls, but eventually retreats into science fiction, fantasy, and role-playing games. [35] Furthermore, in a footnote, the mongoose is described as "an enemy of kingly charriots, chains, and hierarchies... an ally of Man",[36] suggesting the mongoose's importance in helping the de Leon family not just for their misfortune but also as a means of undermining Trujillo's oppression. The mongoose is known for its sociability and cunning. Maybe you should be really, really alarmed. Even after death his evil lingered. When Oscar meets Ana, one of the many women with whom he falls in love, he notices different aspects of her life and "there was something in the seamlessness with which she switched between these aspects that convinced him that both were masks". Rather than just provide factual background, Yunior's narrative continues in the footnotes just as it does in the body of the novel. As she grows into a great and “terrible beauty,” boy-crazy Beli begins to catch the eye of the wrong type of men. While Oscar studies creative writing at Rutgers University, Yunior becomes his roommate in order to get closer to Lola, with whom he is infatuated. Díaz moves between several styles in the novel as the narrative shifts to each of the characters. Likewise, there is a mention of being "flung into the macroverse" by "the ritual of Chud", a nod to the ending of It. [31] Furthermore, Yunior recounts the stories and history of a family that is not his own. "[53] In another section, Felix Wenceslao Bernardino, an agent of Trujillo is metaphorically described as the Witchking of Angmar. Junot Diaz’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao is an achingly beautiful, irresistibly harrowing depiction of Dominican Republic. In the opening pages of the novel, the narrator quotes Oscar as having said "What more sci-fi than Santo Domingo? [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. In the case of Beli in the cane fields, the narrator shares that whether her encounter with the mongoose "was a figment of Beli's wracked imagination or something else altogether" cannot be determined (149). Beli understood how advantageous appearance is in the social situations of the Dominican Republic, but not until she had undergone major physical and psychological changes. The arrival of his novel (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) in 2007 prompted a minor re-appraisal of Diaz's earlier work. Eventually, he moves to the Dominican Republic and falls helplessly in love with Ybon, a sex worker who lives near him. 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. 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). Trujillo is one scary dude. Part 1, Introduction Summary. Oscar is a shy, overweight teenager who loves to read and write science fiction and fantasy and is searching for love. That's why I thought the book was somewhat hopeful at the end. 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. Although by the end none of the characters seem to have escaped the cycle of violence or the effects of fukú, Yunior has a dream in which Oscar waves a blank book at him, and he realizes that this can be a "zafa" (325) to the family curse. 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. He even admits that as the one telling the story, he holds a certain amount of power. The phrase originated in the Frank Herbert novel Dune and Oscar uses it to try and quell his own fear near the end of the story, to no avail. Beli Getting Pregnant The Brief Life Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a novel written by Junot Diaz, a Dominican writer. Rather than return to teaching high school, Oscar asks Yunior for money. These Beli and Oscar canefield scenes are haunted by the displacement and violence against enslaved Africans, the displacement and genocide of indigenous folks, and also the revolts and resistance to these systems. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao contains several of the hallmarks of Latin American Magical Realism. Acknowledge its existence at a collective level. The third daughter, Beli, is sold as a maid to cover family debts. She eventually was tossed around the extended family and eventually "sold", yes "That's right-she was sold" (253). Junot Diaz surely includes Trujillo as a character in the story, but limits his representation to descriptions that come from Yunior’s perspective. 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. A doctor and a scholar, and heir to one of the more well-off Dominican families, Abelard wants nothing to do with Trujillo. 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. 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. He is a socially awkward Dominican American in a bid to assert his identity and find love. Yunior's masculinity echoes that of Trujillo, who in his violent actions and lust for women, also embodies Dominican hypermasculinity. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was widely praised and appeared in a number of "best of the year" book lists. The novel contains significant exposition on Oscar's family history. Instead of Díaz directly telling the story to the reader, he creates an aesthetic distance by speaking through the novel's narrator Yunior. 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. After being raised by an aunt, Beli enters into a relationship with a Gangster named Dionisio. 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 … VanBeest points out that in spite Oscar's lack of machismo, he possesses "other masculine traits that Yunior admires." Oscar falls hopelessly in love, despite his family’s disapproval. So he's important enough to put up front. Oscar’s first experience with love is unhappy, setting the tone for every romantic relationship to follow in the novel. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Symbols & Motifs The Mongoose and the Man Without a Face In many cultures, the mongoose is a symbol of good fortune. [29], Although Yunior is the narrator of the story, and everything that is said comes from his perspective, the story revolves around the unlikely hero, Oscar. Chapter Summary for Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, part 1 chapter 2 summary. 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. Junot Diaz has come to literary fame with his work The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Through the figure of Oscar, he explores alternatives to hypermasculinity. All of these tragedies as a result of the desire for a beautiful young lady, a by product of the preeminence given to physical appearance. Oscar's speech reflects an autodidactic language based on his knowledge of fantasy, 'nerd' literature and his speech is filled with phrases such as "I think she's orchidaceous"[13] and "I do not move so precipitously",[13] whereas Yunior "affects a bilingual b-boy flow"[14] and intersperses it with literary language. Here, the canefields are surrounded by the context of the Trujillato. Trujillo's appetite for ass was "insatiable" (217), pushing him to do unspeakable things. From there, the novel goes further back in time to describe the adolescence of Lola and Oscar’s mother, Beli. In September Lola cuts school a lot, and her mother’s cancer comes back. 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]. Depression weighs heavily on him, and his lack of social confidence keeps him more isolated than ever. Instant downloads of all 1389 LitChart PDFs 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 story of the De Léon family is told and collected by the fictional narrator Yunior and the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani has described the voice of the book as "a streetwise brand of Spanglish". [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". Oscar de Leon, in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, is a tragic hero because he is naturally virtuous, possesses tragic flaws, and is faced with undeserved misfortune. Like the de Leon family, the mongoose is an immigrant, an invasive, non-native species. Oscar and Ybón finally spend one weekend together, where Oscar loses his virginity and finds true intimacy with her. Contemporary masculinity and contemporary power structures leave no room for vulnerability, but for Díaz, "the only way to encounter a human is by being vulnerable. Ybon's boyfriend, a violent police captain, becomes jealous of Oscar and sends two goons who kidnap Oscar, take him to the sugarcane fields, and beat him into a coma. Back in the 1990s again, Oscar has graduated college but moves back with his mother in Paterson and teaches high school English rather than achieving his dream of being a writer. [22] This is coupled with other supernatural elements such as the man with no face and the mongoose. Twice in the novel the mantra "Fear is the mindkiller" is repeated. He writes letters back to the States, but no one can persuade him to give up his obsession with Ybón. Meanwhile, Abelard’s wife gives birth to their third daughter but commits suicide soon after. 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