Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” Essay
Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”
The elders who are used to reminiscing and looking back at the times of their younger years would usually counsel young people of today to treasure, cherish, and make the most of their youth while it is still there. They would often say that, just when a person thinks everything about youth is so wonderful, one’s youthfulness will eventually slip away and that person can never get it back. More often than not, the adventurous activities, fantasies, dreams, and endeavors are the most precious memories the elders reminisce about their youth.
This could be why it is often told that a young person’s story is the most precious, the richest, and the best to remember. Many people are often grateful that once in their lives they were able to play, explore, fall in love, and discover great things. However, there are some who would just sit with regret as they look back and see nothing about their younger days but their naivety. But how would it feel like if a person had everything in his or her younger days but nothing beyond that because his or her life ends at the peak of his or her adolescence?
One of the shortest yet most colorful stories ever told is that of a boy named Oscar Wao in a moving and entertaining tale by Junot Diaz called, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This is the story of a boy who had all the play time, adventures, and challenges a child can ever experience in his childhood, but it also tells the story of a boy who wished to become a full-grown man but never became one. What the Story is About A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the tale of Oscar, a young boy with the most colorful and adventurous childhood.
The story is set in a humble village living an ordinary way of life in the United States. Oscar is described in the story as an overweight ghetto nerd who is always scolded and advised by his sister, Lola, to work harder on having a better physique in order to attract girls (Scott). The story opens with a retelling of the difficulties experienced by his mother, Beli, during the regime of an abusive and feared dictator, Rafael Trujillo in 1930 and 1961.
Trujillo is tagged by Oscar himself as the “dictatingest dictator who ever dictated” who then became his most hated person because of how he brought sadness and bad luck to his family’s life (Diaz 80). This is where the concept of fuku appears. Fuku, as how Oscar puts it, is the mother of all bad lucks that can affect a person and his or her family not only for one generation but also for the rest of their lineage’s existence. Because his mother once dared to go in the way of Trujillo, Oscar believes that fuku has affected their family ever since, so he thinks of fuku as the reason why his family never really had a completely happy life.
Aside from being a normal teenager who daydreams of the typical teenage fantasies, Oscar also dreams of becoming an accomplished sci-fi writer and a successful lover boy as well. As an adolescent, Oscar goes through the usual dilemmas and adventures of young boys such as being busted, having absurd sexual fantasies, and falling in love with a person he knew he could never have. Oscar’s story is filled with exciting adventures of a boy who tries to discover his place in a foreign land. It is also loaded with exhilarating escapades of a young boy with friends and women.
Although the story has two different narrators—which makes it a little bit confusing in some parts—the language is nonetheless creatively utilized to make the text more dynamic and at the same time captivating (Flanagan). Analyzing the Themes Depicted in the Story Love and Obsession Although love is considered an eternal theme that has grazed the pages of innumerable literary works, Junot Diaz successfully captures the interest of a lot of readers in this work because of how complex, difficult, and impossible it is presented in this story.
Unlike other works of fiction, Diaz chose to present the concept of love under the light of a certain reality. Diaz depicts the reality of love in this story as something which other people can only dream about; thus, he portrays the reality that the joy and bliss love brings cannot be for all, and that there are just some people who may have really been struck by fuku and can never enjoy the goodness of true love. Beli is presented as the first victim of this miserable reality of love. Her story involves that of a girl who simply fell in love with the wrong person, in the wrong time, and under the wrong circumstances.
Beli was a typical kind of a mistress. She fell for a man who was married to not just any other woman, but to the sister of the feared dictator of Dominican Republic during that time, Rafael Trujillo. Her love was that strong that she was ready to face the harsh consequences that may come her way. She was ready to accept the fact that she can never be the first lady in her man’s heart no matter how painful it becomes. However, danger came really close when Trujillo and his sister finally found out about Beli.
Although Beli did not want to leave her country, she was forced to do so due to her fear of losing her future and at the advice of her concerned foster mother. That was when Beli had to flee to the United States where she was to start a new life. Indeed, love can really be very bitter and unjust to some people. While other people are throwing away all the goodness love can bring, there are those who yearn for the freedom of loving someone, yet they can never do either because they were struck by fuku, or they are just simply not meant to be.
Aside from Beli’s sad experience on love, Diaz’s notion about love is also illustrated in Oscar’s experience: “Love was a rare thing, easily confused with million other things, and if anybody knew this to be true, it was him” (Diaz 321). As Lola and her boyfriend Yunior narrate Oscar’s story side-by-side, it becomes apparent that Oscar was able to meet several girls in his short-lived life. Even at the young age of seven, Lola describes him to be someone who developed a great fondness for girls who wore lipstick. All the other boys his age avoided the girls like they were a bad case of Captain Trips.
Not Oscar … The girls – his sister Lola’s friends, his mother’s friends, even their neighbor, Mari Colon, a thirty-something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walked like she had a bell for an ass – all purportedly fell for him. ” (Diaz 12) Thus, Oscar apparently had such an easy time attracting women even at a very juvenile age. However, although this was the case when he was younger, his love life meets a great turnaround during his adolescent years when he encounters a prostitute by the name of Yvon. Yvon is a prostitute whom everybody knows as the “property” of a corrupt police captain.
Although this was clearly understood by Oscar, he seems to be unable to do anything about his growing feelings for Yvon—a feeling different from what he felt for all the other girls he met in the past. At first, love may seem as an exaggerated term as a label to what Oscar feels for Yvon. It may be natural for the readers to think that what he feels is an ordinary case of sexual attraction brought by his own sexual frustrations as an overweight adolescent, and also conclude that Yvon is the kind of girl who can be considered a master in seducing men.
However, it becomes clear that Oscar has indeed developed a special kind of affection towards Yvon when he became so possessive and insistent on being with her despite the possible dangers it imposes upon him, knowing he is actually trying to steal the captain’s lady. Oscar even comes to a more serious point of asking Yvon to get married, but Yvon hesitates and always turns him down due to fear of what may happen to both of them if they choose to give in to their feelings. At this point, Diaz’s intention to portray love as an impossible and a difficult thing appears very clear.
Based on how much Oscar fought for his love for Yvon, it is evident that he and his mother share the same unlucky fate when it comes to love. Hence, it can be inferred that they both fell for the wrong person (who belonged to the “wrong” people) at the wrong time and under wrong and unlucky circumstances as well. Considering this, the readers may not help but think that Diaz is trying to say that fuku may indeed exist as it appears to have set upon Oscar’s family. However, love, as many would say, often comes with another miserable reality called obsession, and this theme can also be observed in the entirety of Diaz’s work.
Considering the love felt by both Oscar and Beli for their lovers, it can be safe to say that it was obsession, aside from love, which kept them holding on to their feelings. Indeed, both can be seen to have specific obsessions. In Beli’s case, her only obsession was her love for the man who can never give back the same amount of love to her. She knew it was not right to love a man who is already married, yet her obsession for that person and for his affection made her feel that the world is but an unjust place, unable to distribute the freedom to love evenly among all its inhabitants.
On the other hand, Oscar also appears to be obsessed with love as much as how was obsessed with women in the past. While other kids his age considered women as a vice which needs to be avoided, he looked at them with so much delight that he considered them as the next sweetest thing to candies that can as well vary in size, shapes, and colors. He became so used to women calling him hombre because he was seen as a lover boy who knew all about women’s weaknesses and soft spots. He became so addicted to this kind of relationship that he never knew getting together with a girl like Yvon would be such a difficult thing to handle.
As it appears, love has indeed become Oscar’s greatest obsession. He became blind to Yvon’s natural beauty and appeal which prevented him from seeing the reality that they can never be together since she is already a property of someone else—someone else who is much more powerful than him. Thus, the circumstances of Beli and Oscar suggest that oftentimes, love and obsession go hand-in-hand. Sex Oscar’s character is introduced to the concept of sex during the early years of his adolescence, just like what typically happens to average teenagers.
This theme reverberates throughout the story—from Oscar’s own retelling to Lola and Yunior’s. Like average teenagers, Oscar is described to have such a glorious impression about sex as something that reflects manliness and strength. However, although he knew this, it is mentioned repeatedly in the story that Oscar thought he might possibly die a virgin. Throughout the entire story, Oscar talks and fantasizes about nothing but the image of him making love with a woman he loves.
Yet, there are also times when he becomes so desperate that he just wanted to do the act with anybody just to prove he would not die a virgin. This seems to be the biggest frustration of Oscar. He leaves their home for college as a virgin and he comes back a virgin still. Thus, it can be inferred that Diaz attempts to imply that in this modern age where sex is being popularized by the mass media, it may seem hard for a typical teenager to go on without experiencing it when all the boys are considering it as a trophy and a great achievement.
Aside from this, considering that Oscar is overweight, Diaz presents how hard it can be for an adolescent who is not physically attractive to dream of something like sex when everybody else in the neighborhood seems to be doing it as a normal activity. Only in the last lines of the novel would reveal that Oscar indeed has done it with the love of his life, Yvon, and he chose to describe it this way: “So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty! ” (Diaz 339).
Reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is like looking deep into the frustrations and fantasies of every teenager. Oscar’s characterization as a desperate overweight adolescent who enters and leaves college as a virgin, his natural tendency to wear his “nerdiness” the way a master swordsman wears his sword, as well as his occasional suicidal tendencies can be seen as honest and true-to-life representations of the challenges adolescents face (Kakutani). Moreover, Oscar’s views of love, obsession, and sex also reflect the popular notions and impressions of teenagers regarding such topics.
Hence, this work of Diaz may serve as a mirror to all the young people who cannot identify with their environment either because of their color, nationality, weight, and/or personality. Oscar Wao’s fantasies, challenges, failures, and frustrations definitely show the readers that an adolescent’s life is not always plainly about play, adventure, and leading a happy-go-lucky life. All of his heartaches, mishaps, and adventures shaped his desire to be accepted by his generation, since being accepted in his age may mean having several girlfriends, being physically fit, and especially not dying a virgin.
In this short-lived yet dynamic life of Oscar Wao, the reality of youth being the most colorful and upbeat period of a person’s life is once again justified. Thus, considering how Oscar’s life ended, it can be inferred that childhood is the happiest time of life, and although Oscar’s life ended there, his life tells that childhood is also the period of life that one should enjoy to the fullest. Works Cited Diaz, Junot. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. London: Riverhead Books, 2007. Dickens, Charles. “A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.
” Quote Junkie (British Edition). Ed. Hagopian Institute. California: Create Space, 2008. 16 Flanagan, Mark. “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. ” About. com. Sept. 2007. 29 July 2009. <http://contemporarylit. about. com/od/fiction/fr/oscarWao. htm>. Kakutani, Michiko. “Travails of an Outcast. ” The New York Times. 4 Sept. 2007. 29 July 2009. <http://www. nytimes. com/2007/09/04/books/04diaz. html>. Scott, A. C. “Dreaming in Spanglish. ” The New York Times. 30 Sept. 2007. 29 July 2009. <http://www. nytimes. com/2007/09/30/books/review/Scott-t. html? _r=1>.