The novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells an intricate, multilayered, and compelling tale of the Dominican-American family in Santo-Domingo. Through the voice of an unknown and omniscient narrator, the reader is first introduced to the sheltered but sexually active protagonist of the novel, Oscar Wao. He lives with his mother and sister in Paterson, New Jersey. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a post-dictatorial novel, where the author demonstrates the impacts of the dictator Trujillo on the people. There is a concealed struggle between the Dominican and American identities that are embodied in Oscar. It demonstrates the power of the dictator’s absent presence, because his feeling of identity is transmitted from generation to generation.
Fate of the Characters in the Novel
Oscar’s family lives in an everlasting hell, moving from battle to battle. They cannot even catch a break. Diaz’s diction and tone reinforce an idea of the foreordained fate. He neglects the proper grammar and uses more colloquialisms, swear words, and sarcasm. Moreover, the author’s tone makes the readers imagine a person who has faced serious difficulties. He depicts Oscar’s hard fate demonstrating that he cannot escape from his life. After Oscar is rejected by one of his first lovers, he puts on weight, becomes indifferent to his appearance, and gets engaged into videogames, role-playing, anime, and science fiction. Further, he meets a young woman, who wants to be his friend in an SAT preparation course. However, a budding romance appears to be another source of sexual frustration as Oscar watches a young woman return to her much older boyfriend. Oscar understands that he cannot run away, and “the only way out is in” (Diaz, 2007, p. 209). The novel’s second section is narrated by Oscar’s sister. She is a smart, rebellious punk, who tells the starkly contrasting tales of her mother’s nascent cancer. She also tells about her own sudden disappearance until it was discovered by Oscar and her mother. Then Oscar’s sister was sent back to the old country for some time. The third part of the first book tells the story of the mother Belli’s tempestuous youth in Santo Domingo during the brutal rule of the dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Belli, “a girl so tall your leg bones ached just looking at her” is raised by her aunt, La Inca (Diaz, 2007, p.77). Being a teenager, she twice falls in love with the “wrong kind” of man. The first of them was a spoiled playboy from her school, who did not love her and was further whisked away to the military school by his disapproving family. The second one was a dangerous gangster who, the narrator notes, is “a flunky for the Trujillato, and not a minor one” (Diaz, 2007, p.119). When Lola becomes pregnant with the gangster’s child, Belli becomes “out of her mind with happiness” (Diaz, 2007, p.136). Even after she is rescued by La Inca, the thugs continue to stalk her. Finally, she leaves the country and moves to New York.
The narrator of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao appears only in the first part of the first book. He is Lola’s quasi-boyfriend. She nursed him after a bad beating and later lived with him. De Leon family faces a lot of inescapable struggles and conflicts. Lola argues constantly with her mother, fights with her, shrieking, “This time I hope you die from cancer” (Diaz, 2007, p. 63). Lola eventually leaves her family, “bound for the shore” and lives with her boyfriend Aldo, trying to leave her problems behind (Diaz, 2007, p.64). However, in spite of her attempts to run away, Lola is stuck in the struggle with her mother. Yunior is a memorable and omniscient narrator, who knows a lot not only about the Dominican history and lore, but also about an intimate awareness of the actions and thoughts of other characters. His voice displays a certain comic crudeness, but he makes the astute observations about the Dominican culture, Dominican-American issues, and violence of Santa Domingo during this era.
Violence and Dictatorship in the Novel
In the novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, violence occurs in many various forms. Though the colonial period is over in the Dominican Republic, its impacts are still noticeable in the different forms. Greiner states that, “Violence in its different forms gains its origin in the Spanish colonization, which spreads among the whole society” (Greiner, 2012, p. 12). This violent colonial past of the Dominican Republic influences the life of the main characters of the novel. Therefore, the life of the characters is predominated by a curse named fukú, because the enduring mark of the colonial powers has left. Fukú is demonstrated in the various forms of violence, such as political, domestic, sexual, historical, and racial, What is more, it is also manifested in a form of enslavement. Diaz depicts the “Curse and Doom of the New World” as viable and real rationalization of Santo Domingo people’s attribute to any evil (Diaz, 2007, p. 1). The fukú can or cannot affect Belli, Lola, and Oscar’s lives, but the author uses it to signify the oncoming consternation each of the characters will face. This despotic colonial influence is not connected with the past, because the plantation machine’s dynamics still show their power by the violent acts. Woodward states that Diaz mixes the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial histories in his work (Woodward, 1997, p. 102). These points of view are also connected to the violent acts.
At the beginning of the novel, the narrator depicts the curse and also tells about its origin and its destructive effects on the local people and their cultural and historical identity. Trujillo, a dictator of the Dominican Republic, is described as a demonstration of fukú. He is depicted as an incarnation of the colonial people. Trujillo commits crimes; his violence and regime work against the local people. The dictator’s rule does not vary from the prior Dominican leaders. The narrator demonstrates that Rafael has an outlandish power. He is described as a foreign force that changes the society and culture. The dictator does not only manipulate the past by changing the names of the landmarks or cities, which are parts of the cultural identity, but also impacts the presence and even the future. The collapse of the business, murders, and raping and kidnapping of the daughter by the dictator can be condemned to fukú (Wiarda, 1968, p. 89).
To sum up, the sense of the overt or violent sexuality is passing through the novel as a masculine feature. A dictatorship complies with the popular standards but it does not work for the main character as he is not under a dictatorship. The identity is shown through the ideals of the dictator. Oscar will never be able to run away from Zafa, because he will never have a chance to flee from the Dominican culture.