The Concept of Love in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Tribulations of Love in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz explores love not only as a complex force that fuels horrendous acts but also a force that leads others out of suffering. Through a depiction of two generations of the De León family. Díaz explores the loves that Oscar de León and his mother, Beli experienced throughout their lives. From the time of her birth in the Dominican Republic, Beli endured a series of tragedies. She grew up without her immediate family, and throughout her infancy, she moved between various families. Growing up in unfavorable circumstances, Beli struggled to find love throughout her adolescence. In a parallel fashion, her son, Oscar, also struggled with finding love. Unlike Beli, Oscar grew up in the completely different atmosphere of New Jersey. Incredibly uncomfortable with himself, Oscar continuously struggled with apprehension in addressing women. This apprehension, paired with the lack of a father figure to guide him, Oscar hid within himself and used video games and comic books as an outlet for expression. The single thing that motivated Beli and Oscar was the idea that one day they would find love. Eventually, Beli and Oscar both did find love, albeit unstable relationships, but love proved to be their downfall in the end. Throughout the novel, love envelops these two characters not only as a driving force of life, but also as a carrier of violence and despair.
In the Dominican Republic, Beli grew up in Baní with her aunt, La Inca. Described as having zero motivation in school and being boy-crazy, she did not appear to have a bright future ahead of her. Before Beli’s body matured into a woman’s figure, she remained unnoticed by the males around her. It was not until her body developed and she grew breasts, “. . . so implausibly titanic they made generous souls pity their bearer,” that she, “drove every straight male in their vicinity to reevaluate his sorry life,” (Díaz 92). Because of her body’s transformation, and the deliberate use of her figure, Beli finally obtained the attention of the boys around her. The maturation of her body marked the beginning of a fresh life for Beli. She, “. . . ran into the future that her new body represented and never ever looked back” (Díaz 94). Beli’s newfound body gave her the control she wanted in order to manipulate the world around her. A girl lacking any power to escape from her current state, Beli wanted nothing more than freedom from La Inca’s bakery, school, and Baní. Beli equated the idea of love to her dreams of family, wealth, and achievement, and these fantasies of boys and love allowed her to free her mind. With the development of her body, she began a relationship with Jack Pujols, the most attractive, wealthiest boy in her school. The relationship he had with Beli was short-lived and nothing more than physical attraction. In order to snag Beli and ultimately use her for sex, Jack told Beli that they would marry after high school and have a life together. With the belief that she would have a future with Jack, Beli immediately began to fantasize. These fantasies, fueled by love, were a primary escape from her present world. If not for the boy-crazy mindset, and the desire for a happy future filled with wealth and achievement, Beli would not have used love as an outlet from her life in Baní.
When the relationship between Beli and Jack ended, Beli was at a low point in life as the love she thought she had turned out to be untrue. Eventually, after dropping out of school, Beli decided to take her life into her own hands and become the person she wanted to be. One night when she was at one of the popular clubs in Baní, El Hollywood, a man known as the Gangster approached Beli. During the first meeting with the Gangster, he referred to Beli as a “Morena,” which characterizes a dark-skinned woman. Feeling offended by the description, Beli broke down, throwing items at him, hitting him, and screaming at him. After a day to calm down, Beli experienced a change of heart and decided to go back to El Hollywood to seek out the Gangster. The two danced and she immediately fell in love with him. Beli’s relationships showed the physical attraction she craved as well as the promise of a future with wealth and stability, but she also desired an emotional love. Only after getting pregnant with the Gangster’s baby does Beli discover his marriage to Trujillo’s sister. The Trujillo family remains today the most tyrannical family that was in charge of the Dominican Republic. When the Gangster’s wife discovered that her husband cheated on her and impregnated another woman, she ordered a couple of thugs to abduct Beli and kill her. The thugs fulfilled the wish of the Gangster’s wife, dragged Beli into the sugar cane fields, beat her, but they failed to entirely kill Beli. Rescued and recovering, Beli discovered that the baby suffered injury and death due to extensive trauma received during the abduction. The devastation of losing the baby sent Beli into a state of utter hopelessness as she cried out for the Gangster to come save her. Her love for the Gangster, caused her to go blind to the tragic reality of the relationship in which she engaged. The love that Beli felt for the Gangster caused the danger of death to envelop her in Baní. Because of the threat of being killed, La Inca sent Beli to the United States. As love kept Beli alive during her time in Baní, allowing her to escape daily tribulations, her love for the Gangster almost causes her death, changing her life forever and lessening the chance for Beli to fully love again.
In addition to the struggles faced in the Dominican Republic, Beli faces similar conflicts when she moved to the United States. She met a man on the plane who eventually became her husband. Beli had two children with this man, Oscar and Lola, but then left alone by him and living in poverty, she never loved another again. The relationships that Beli had during her adolescence, as well as her young adult life, proved to be toxic. Jack Pujols used Beli for sex and played her to the point where she believed they would be together forever. After Jack, the same scenario plays out with the Gangster. She is once again teased with the promise of marriage when she becomes pregnant, but that dream becomes shattered when the Gangster’s thugs nearly kill her. Even after all of that, she remained open to love and used her fantasies of love to keep her life going. Although she felt that coming to America would end her life, she found love again, developed a family, and was once again left. She wanted a life of wealth and stability through marriage, but her husband left her in poverty. Love proved to bring her nothing but abandonment and despair.
Similarly, Beli’s son Oscar experienced similar scenarios of disappointment and failed love. Unlike Beli though, Oscar never seemed to be able to find the love that he desired. Throughout his adolescence, Oscar proved to be nothing but a giant nerd. Largely uncomfortable with himself, Oscar stayed inside, playing video games or reading comic books to pass the time. The comic books and video games also served as a break from the fantasy loves that Oscar played out in his head. The escape proved to be ineffective as his fantasies fed into his games while he pretended to be a superhero saving his loves. Described as a nerd, Oscar remains different from the other nerds who, “hadn’t cared about girls,” as he was, “. . . still the the passionate enamorao who fell in love easily and deeply. He had secret loves all over town, the kind of . . . girls who wouldn’t have said boo to a loser like him. . .” (Díaz 23). Due to the fantasies of being with women who would never even think of a guy like Oscar, he remained deeply stuck inside his own mind, which did not allow him to approach women in real life. Feeling despair all throughout his adolescence, Oscar became hopeless about ever finding love.
Oscar not only lost himself in his comic books and video games, but he also did not know how to speak to women in a way that did not scare them. Oscar spent so much time fantasizing about women he could not win over, usually resulting in heartache when he found out the sad truth that they did not want him. He built up perfect scenarios in his mind that never became true, which always left him feeling defeated. One specific instance of when Oscar frightened the girls around him was during his years at Rutgers. He felt that he was in love with a young lady named La Jablesse, and Oscar found himself completely infatuated with her. When he came across her with another boy, Oscar went manic, screaming and destroying her room. After that, Oscar’s roommate, Yunior, explained that, “. . . everybody in the dorm thought he was some kind of major psycho. The girls especially stayed away from him” (Díaz 188). This particular incident caused Oscar to feel that nothing remained for him, so he tried to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge. Oscar survived the jump. Although the feeling of hopelessness engulfed Oscar, the lingering thought of finding the perfect love remained the reason that he continued with his life.
Eventually, Oscar felt that he would benefit from a change of pace, so he traveled to the Dominican Republic and decided to stay with La Inca. During his time in Baní, Oscar met a woman named Ybón Pimentel. Ybón, a known prostitute, invited Oscar into her home one day. They spent time engaging in a authentic, in-depth conversation and he instantly felt in love with her. Upon arriving home, La Inca and Beli immediately expressed their rage toward Oscar being with a “puta.” Oscar defended her and continued on to fantasize what his future life would be like if she stayed with him. Not until Ybón mentioned that she had a boyfriend did Oscar realize the extent of his love. Ybón’s boyfriend was also the captain of the local police force. When Ybón tells Oscar that they should not spend any more time together because of her, “. . . jealous Third World Cop boyfriend,” the narrator remarks that anyone else would not think twice about staying another day (Díaz 291). The moment Oscar found out about Ybón’s dangerous boyfriend, he made the terrible mistake of staying and making his presence known to the captain. By staying in the Dominican Republic, Oscar set himself up for more defeat, with the added danger of death as the captain threatened Oscar’s life.
The first time Oscar met the captain, the initial impression he made on the captain was poor. Driving the passed out Ybón back to her house, police stopped Oscar in Ybón’s car. Oscar was being followed by the captain and his men, and when they stopped Oscar, Ybón woke up and explained that she wanted a kiss. For the first time in his life, a woman had granted Oscar a kiss. The captain watched the scene unfold, and orders two other officers to take Oscar to the sugar cane fields. Here, like Beli many years prior, the thugs beat Oscar until near death. Oscar knew from what Ybón had told him about the captain that he was a dangerous, jealous man, but his love for Ybón blinded him. His burning desire to find love nearly cost him his life. Nevertheless, Oscar made escaped the cane field barely alive, following the same scenario of his mother’s near death experience in the same cane fields. After the experience, Beli forced Oscar to return to home in the United States. Despite almost being beaten to death, the first thing that Oscar told Yunior was, “I kissed a girl, Yunior. I finally kissed a girl” (Díaz 305). Although nearly being killed for having that one kiss with Ybón, nothing else mattered to Oscar but the fact that he did in fact kiss her.
Following the encounter with the captain, Oscar remained unable to rid his brain of thoughts about Ybón. Incapable of coming to his senses to make a logical decision, Oscar decided to later return to the Dominican Republic to see Ybón. Deciding to return to the Dominican Republic was the last fatal mistake he made in his quest to find love. Ybón was aware of how dangerous Oscar’s love was, especially if the captain caught them together. She knew that the captain would surely kill Oscar. He eventually convinced Ybón to go away with him for a week where had sex for the first time. Due to the extreme jealously the captain felt, Oscar was once again dragged into the cane fields. Similarly, the thugs threatened Oscar with death, but he explained to the men about his fantasy for Ybón and himself: “He told them about Ybón and the way he loved her and how much they had risked and that they’d started to dream the same dreams and say the same words” (Díaz 321). The pure love and joy Oscar felt for Ybón proved to be enough to ease the pain of knowing he was going to die. His will to fulfill some of his fantasies allowed him to have the relationship he did with Ybón. The same quest for love that fueled his life also caused his death. The men told Oscar, “Listen, we’ll let you go if you tell us what fuego means in English. Fire, [Oscar] blurted out, unable to help himself” (Díaz 322). Oscar did nothing more than try to get free, but in the process he essentially told the men to fire their gun at him, killing him.
Today, love remains a driving force for life in some people. In this particular novel, Beli and Oscar endured with the idea that love would grant them their true desires. For Beli, her life-long goal was to have a stable family with a wealthy man. But after she fell pregnant to a married man, and then had to leave her home and start a new life in a different country, she felt hopeless about ever reaching her dream life. Nonetheless, Beli’s love and fantasy world fueled her desire to continue life and start a family, even though she did experience a third and final heartbreak. The goal of finding a true love also drove Oscar through life. As he and Ybón finally developed a relationship, Oscar fulfilled his desires to have intimate, loving relations with a woman. In both situations, love led these two characters through life, but the same love that had once motivated them also caused their downfalls. Beli faced so many heartbreaks that she became cold and bitter towards her family. Apparent through his murder, Oscar’s love for Ybón caused his downfall. Although Beli and Oscar proved that love can push the continuation of life, both characters also proved that love remains a force that can bring pain and despair.
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