Oscar’s first experience with love is unhappy, setting the tone for every romantic relationship to follow in the novel. Lola decides to run away to be with a boy named Aldo, who lives with his aging father in Wildwood, NJ. The basis of all of the problems that arise in this novel is the US-sponsored dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo that lasted for over thirty years. 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. Teachers and parents! [22] This is coupled with other supernatural elements such as the man with no face and the mongoose. 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. 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. Her loneliness derived from her "defensive and aggressive and mad overactive" personality that pushed people miles away from her. Even after death his evil lingered. The arrival of his novel (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) in 2007 prompted a minor re-appraisal of Diaz's earlier work. "[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. "[47] Díaz hints at possible latent abilities or qualities Oscar may possess that will reveal themselves or develop later in the novel. He is constantly deemed not masculine enough by those around him, and he does not follow the norms of his Dominican culture. He is a socially awkward Dominican American in a bid to assert his identity and find love. Early in the novel, Díaz aligns Oscar with comic book superheroes: "You want to know what being an X-man feels like? [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". Lola’s strained relationship with her mother causes her to act out. The plot of this novel skips from past to present and focuses on different characters’ stories at various times in order to convey the long-lasting impression that Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961 left. Maritza’s beauty and popularity in the face of Olga’s ugliness and isolation also introduces the theme of racism in the book. Furthermore, when Trujillo is referenced by Yunior in his narration, the descriptions are entirely negative. "[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. Meanwhile, Abelard’s wife gives birth to their third daughter but commits suicide soon after. My students love how organized the handouts are and enjoy tracking the themes as a class.”, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary. That's why I thought the book was somewhat hopeful at the end. Canefields are where enslaved Africans were forced into labor and dehumanization. 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. Within hours of El Jefe dancing bien pegao with those twenty-seven bullets, his minions ran amok−fulfilling, as it were, his last will and vengeance. The twentieth century’s one of the most disreputable dictators, Rafael Trujillo exercised absolute power over Dominican Republic like a feudal lord from February, 1930 until his assassination in May, 1961. 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. 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. Ybon is kind to Oscar but rejects his frequent romantic overtures. 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. [57], In a 2009 poll by The Millions[58] a panel of writers, critics, and editors voted The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao the eighth-best novel since 2000, and readers ranked it in first place. In one interview, Díaz talks about how NJ is … [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. Lola calms him down, and Oscar decides to wait until college to find a new love. Eventually, he moves to the Dominican Republic and falls helplessly in love with Ybon, a sex worker who lives near him. 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? From there, the novel goes further back in time to describe the adolescence of Lola and Oscar’s mother, Beli. 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. By utilizing her appearance, she gained a complete understanding of the influences of her body. 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. 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]. She symbolizes the Dominican identity struggle of growing up with two cultural ties, that of the Dominican Republic and that of the United States. Lola marries a Cuban man and moves to Miami. [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. The novel uses history to set the scene and create its social and political commentary. Díaz's use of Yunior as the main narrator of the book strengthens the idea of the novel as metafiction. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao can be used as an example of speculative fiction. The mongoose was transplanted westward to the Dominican Republic, just as Oscar's family was forced out of the Dominican Republic. It was brought over to the islands of Antilles when the Europeans came, and has stayed ever since. 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. "[61], The novel's film rights were optioned by Miramax Films and producer Scott Rudin in 2007. Don't be alarmed, dear readers; as the Domincan Republic's most feared dictator, Mr. Trujillo hovers over the entire novel. 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 and Ybón finally spend one weekend together, where Oscar loses his virginity and finds true intimacy with her. The novel then switches to Lola’s perspective. In September Lola cuts school a lot, and her mother’s cancer comes back. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Setting Junot Díaz This Study Guide consists of approximately 56 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Yunior and his friends give Oscar the nickname “Oscar Wao” and tease him mercilessly. 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. The mongoose further stops a bus directly in front of her, preventing her from being hit and providing her transportation to safety. 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. She had to choose whether or not to take advantage of her new curvaceous body which puberty had generously bestowed upon her. Oscar falls into a deep depression and attempts suicide on the last day of the school year. Yunior researches Oscar’s life and family, revealing that the entire book was written so that Yunior could piece together his own thoughts about the Dominican American experience. Instant downloads of all 1389 LitChart PDFs A lot of the emotions and the atmosphere laid out in Oscar's canefield scene parallels Beli's. 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. [30] Oscar’s character’s love for science fiction allows Diaz to intertwine metaphors from the science fiction realm such as that of “Watchmen”. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and societal views on finding love. She eventually was tossed around the extended family and eventually "sold", yes "That's right-she was sold" (253). 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. 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 received highly positive reviews from critics, who praised Díaz's writing style and the multi-generational story. Junot Diaz has come to literary fame with his work The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The book chronicles 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 with the curse that has plagued his family for generations. Most of the story is told by an apparently omniscient narrator who is eventually revealed to be Yunior de Las Casas, a college roommate of Oscar's who dated Lola. [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. 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. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao contains several of the hallmarks of Latin American Magical Realism. Because of this, Trujillo has an important role in the story, but is ultimately weakened due to the given perspective. 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. 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. 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. 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. Find a summary of this and each chapter of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao! While Oscar studies creative writing at Rutgers University, Yunior becomes his roommate in order to get closer to Lola, with whom he is infatuated. [56] In a poll of American literary critics organised by BBC Culture (the arts and culture section of the international BBC website) in 2015, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was voted the twenty-first century's best novel so far. The narration of the book also shifts away from Yunior to another character at several key moments in the story. Kind of like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. 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. Oscar falls hopelessly in love, despite his family’s disapproval. "[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. In this way, zafa can be read as an undoing of colonialism because as fuku brings misery and bad luck, zafa has the potential to foil it and restore a more favorable balance. Through the figure of Oscar, he explores alternatives to hypermasculinity. "[44], The novel opens with the epigraph: "Of what import are brief, nameless lives…to Galactus? Like his mother years before, Oscar survives and goes back to the States to heal. However, Oscar is not done with Ybón or Santo Domingo. Explore a character analysis of Yunior, plot summary, and important quotes. [41] Much later, after Oscar returns home to La Inca's to try to be with Ybón, he also ends up assaulted in a canefield, but this time by the Capitan's friends. Despite their differences, Yunior and Oscar become important to each other and develop an unusual friendship. Yunior’s references show little respect and are meant to belittle Trujillo’s presence in the story. She leaves for America in disgrace and meets the future father of Oscar and Lola on the plane to New York. Introduction. Part 1, Introduction Summary. Mongooses were imported to tropical islands such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Hawaii. 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. Díaz creates a distinct link between human beings' performative nature and the masks required to express it, and the masks worn by superheroes. Three years later, Oscar goes again to visit Santo Domingo and meets Ybón, a prostitute who lives next door to La Inca. 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. She gives all of her savings to the boy’s family and meets her mother at the airport. Sugar and canefields were so important to the Spanish as they fueled their wealth and the creation of a white elite, and thus plantation economy, in Hispaniola. 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. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an aston-ishing vision of the contemporary American experience and Through its overarching theme of the fukú curse, it additionally contains elements of magic realism. The Quick Marvelous Life of Oscar Wao. Back in Paterson, Oscar becomes obsessed with a girl named Ana, threatening her abusive boyfriend with a gun. 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). Chapter Summary for Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, part 2 preface summary. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Ybon's boyfriend's goons then find Oscar, take him back to the sugarcane fields, and kill him. He survives the fall but is seriously injured. 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]. Though Lola desperately wishes to stay in the Dominican Republic and avoid her overbearing mother a bit longer, the death of a boy she was seeing convinces her to do what is best for her family. In Oscar Wao, it initially appears that the mongoose will serve a similar symbolic purpose. 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