Love and Madness
Love is inherently linked with madness. All of history has proved love to be not only blind but deaf, and yet it stubbornly persists as one of the most defining characteristics of the human condition. It certainly perseveres throughout Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, defying reason, rhyme, and any and all pretenses at sanity. Love in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is akin to a disease, a disease that none of the characters fully recover from. In his role as narrator Yunior endeavours to firmly impress upon readers that the troubles that befall the characters, particularly Oscar, in the novel all relate back to the historical curse of fukú, the supernatural power believed to haunt the De Leòn family. However, the real curse of the De Leòn family is not the supernatural fukú, invoked by people when they cannot explain why really terrible, and really wonderful, things happen in the world; it is love, or the perversion of it that Oscar and the De Leòns understand it to be. Díaz refutes the notion of the supernatural by illustrating Oscar as a character consumed by love, he quite literally goes mad at the prospect of it, and in his repeated doing of so he perpetuates his family’s individualized fukú.
Throughout The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Oscar De Leòn is revealed to be irrevocably in love with false understandings of what love truly is and means. Oscar is addicted to imagining himself as being in love with whatever girl acknowledges him, whether it be Ana, Jenni, or the miscellany of girls he passes on the street. “His affection—that gravitational mass of love, fear, longing, desire, and lust that he directed at any and every girl in his vicinity without regard to looks, age, or availability—broke his heart each and every day” (Díaz 23). Oscar does not fall in love, he falls into lust, physical lust, but also lust for companionship, for something, anything, that will make him feel like less of an outsider, an other.
These are not in themselves desires that Oscar should be blamed for or have held against him, or have destroy him; however, they become such by means of the enormity with which he reacts to not fulfilling them. During his Ana stage, (Ana who is not so much his first love as his first rejection, as that is the pattern of most of his (brief) life), Oscar actually waits outside her boyfriend’s apartment with a gun, prepared to shoot him. Yes, Manny is an abuser and a pervert, for dating a 13 year old when he is 24, and he may deserve some kind of comeuppance, but nevertheless, Oscar looks at his obsession with Ana and what she can do for him, make him feel both physically and emotionally, as the equivalent of love, and that is wrong.
Oscar has a knack for latching on to girls he adores, in his own way, but who treat him, at best, like a friend to be pitied, and when the final rejection comes Oscar snaps. Jenni is an extreme example, as it is her rejection that drives Oscar to attempt suicide. Her nickname of ‘La Jablesse’ suggests something devilish about her while adding a sense of diabolical intent to her relationship with Oscar, and this is reflective how all of the other women in the novel lure Oscar to self-destruction, the same destruction Yunior confuses with fukú.Oscar believes Ybón to be the one true love of his life, as the beginning of his real life, but in actuality his relationship proves that he once again fails to accurately appraise the meaning of love. Of his relationship with Ybón Oscar says “Love was a rare thing, easily confused with a million other things, and if anybody knew this to be true it was him” (321). This is true, and Oscar may know it well, but that does not mean he actually knows what love is. Oscar loves selfishly, greedily, and blindly. Oscar looks at his willingness to die for his love of Ybón as the ultimate unparalleled proof of devotion, of promise, and in itself this could certainly be such. However, Oscar does not just die for his version of the sanctity and power of love; he knowingly and repeatedly endangers the life of Ybón. She asks him again and again to leave her alone for both of their sakes and yet he refuses to even consider listening to her, in the so-called justifiable name of true love. This love, this adoration, earns Ybón a .44 magnum in her vagina while the capitán asks her who she really loves.
In addition to his self-centered, juvenile understanding of love, Oscar cannot give any guarantees to Ybón. Love is supposed to be a guarantee, something that can be counted on no matter what, where, when, or why, but nothing in Oscar’s turbulent attempts at romance suggest an attention span. Perhaps if any of his targets, as this is what the women he loves are to him, had demonstrated reciprocation Oscar would be able to provide evidence of prolonged romantic interests, but for someone who loves as easily and blindly as Oscar this is unlikely. Oscar can offer no guarantees, and had he not imperiled Ybón and gotten himself killed in his selfish, deliberate perversion of love, Oscar would probably have lived to see that in time his love for Ybón too would have passed, onto some girl he made fleeting eye contact with on any given street.
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Lola says that “If [one were to] ask [her she does not] think there are any such things as curses. [She] thinks there is only life. That’s enough” (205). This is certainly the case for Oscar, who does not die at the hands of fukú. Oscar dies at his own hands, at what is essentially his own behest, because he is not capable of understanding love. His love is sick, desperate and needy, unknowing, and dangerous to all parties involved. Yunior confuses the misfortune and death of Oscar as being caused by the supernatural, but in reality Oscar causes his own destruction. He does not truly love any of the girls he goes mad over, he does not know how, and his desperation is the true curse.
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