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Books

Love, Escape And Political Restraint In Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

“But I love her” utters a disgruntled Oscar after he is told repeatedly by his family to leave the Dominican Republic in order to escape to wrath that is associated with Ybon- the woman he claims to be madly in love with. Love, escape and political restraint presents itself as the major themes in Diaz’s novel: “The brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”.

Diaz presents Oscar as the most unlikely protagonist, an overweight lonely nerd who appears to be an outcast. Oscar limits himself to the confines of his room – enjoying the simple pleasures of anime, sci-fi and fantasy in an effort to escape the unpleasant isolated nature of his reality. Oscar is not accepted by his Dominican counter parts because they consider him “undominican”, everything from his mannerisms, his hair and his skin color forces him into a void of loneliness.

Diaz titles this novel in a most ironic way when one considers his format and the characterization of Oscar. The only wonderous part of Oscar’s part of Oscar’s life is his quest for love which always leads to placing himself in detrimental situations and ends up in loss. As for the format of Diaz’s novel, within the book he explicitly spends most of it on characters surrounding Oscar rather than the boy himself. Oscar is quick to give his heart to any female who shows him the slightest bit of attention anything from a greeting to glance will lead Oscar to fall madly “in love” as he would put it himself.

Like Oscar, his sister Lola (who is very close to him) suffers from the same strain. She will give up anything to find a long-lasting love. This origins because of the love she lacks from her mother. Lola believes her mother sees her as “the perfect Dominican slave”. In reaction to this she “hates her mother” more than anything in the world and wants to “escape” her clutches. This desperation to escape is triggered by the tiny hints of love she is given. Lola consistently puts herself in dangerous situations because to her, anywhere is better than being in her mother’s presents.

Subconsciously this may be attributed to the fact that this quest for love originates from her mother, who, in her youthful days fell in love and suffered a punishment that she could never shake all the way up to her final moments in this world. Diaz includes colloquial diction through his consistent use of the Spanish language, the cultural truths (particularly the fuku and zafa) and presenting the political influence and bondage created during Trujillo’s reign which sets the stage for the entire mind-set of each individual character.

The “fuku” and “zafa” are reoccurring themes in this novel. The “fuku” is a curse which is said have originated from the European’s conquest and “discovery” of the Caribbean it is believed that an evil spirit was released upon the colonized people. The “Cabral” family (Oscar’s family) is believed to be tainted with a “fuku” so powerful it “will destroy five (5) generations” from its origins. These origins are from “Abelard”, the first Cabral to ever “violate” the Trujillo regime because he hid his daughter from the dictator when he requested her body to be used at his own discretion. “Zafa” acts as a counter to the curse’s effects.

The curse’s actual existence is debatable, however there are numerous instances in which astronomical occurrences occur and the curse would be the first to blame. You may immediately accept its existence or simply believe the curse is as real as someone makes out to be, and both your ideas will be corroborated and disproved – by Diaz’s impeccable style of wording.

The book establishes and regrets Trujillo as an all-powerful being and begs the question “Of what import are brief, nameless lives…to Galactus?” as an opening epigraph. In respect for his heritage and the lives of those who suffered by Trujillo’s hand, Diaz tells Trujillo’s story in a comedic mocking manner. T add insult to injury Diaz deliberately puts Trujillo’s story physically beneath that of others and writes it in the tinniest font a man could read- to represent his insignificants and undermines his established authority.

Diaz writes an astounding novel – one of love, hatred, displeasure, heartbreak and joy. I would certainly recommend this novel and if there is ever an instance you read a page and absorb nothing of value (highly unlikely), read it again because everything is intentional. Be prepared for a never before seen format, a roller-coaster of emotions and reactions. The initial comedic, raw, uncensored way the book is written is not for the sensitive or the faint of heart, but it remains an enjoyable thrill. Diaz shatters paradigms by tackling social issues in a unique way a person of color is expected to avoid. This book is the farthest thing from a “let-down”. 

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