“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz’s book “The brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” revolves around the story of Oscar Wao, a young Dominican man, and his family after immigrating to New Jersey from San Domingo, Dominican Republic, during the dictatorial regime of Rafael Trujillo. Since its publication in 2007, the novel has become a major success for the author after winning various American awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2008) and the National Book Critics Award (2009). In addition, it has become popular in academics throughout the US. What is the secret behind the success of Diaz’s book? Arguably, the themes of colonialism versus dictatorship and individual versus the nation have contributed significantly to the book’s success.
Violence in Colonialism, dictatorship, and families
Throughout the novel, Diaz describes the influence of colonialism and dictatorship on the fate of citizens in South America, taking the example of the Dominican Republic. Dictatorship and colonialism are portrayed as violent systems that violate the rights of the country’s citizens. Several relationships are affected by physical and emotional abuse. For instance, the relationships between Trujillo and Abelard, Lola, and Beli, as well as Oscar and Ybon, are affected by this problem.
Oscar’s family is having relationship troubles because the members have carried the “fuku” or curse from San Domingo to the US (Diaz 27). Fuku haunts the de Leons and the Cabral families (Greiner 12). It is evident that fuku was placed in most Dominican families by colonialism and perpetuated by successive dictatorship regimes after independence. In fact, Trujillo himself is a curse to his society. The violence perpetrated by the Spanish dictatorship was a form of curse or fuku the Europeans brought to their South American colonies.
Then, it was passed to dictatorial regimes that ruled the country after independence, with Trujillo’s government being the most affected. It appears that the curse has been haunting the families through the evil of violence even after their immigration. Beli experiences violence for loving the Gangster (Greiner 12). In his part, Oscar’s love for Ybon is affected by the curse, which makes Oscar experience violence. In addition, Abelard’s protection of his daughter brought violence because of the fuku. It is also clear that Lola’s inability to separate her mother’s love from violence is due to fuku (Greiner 13).
The individual versus the nation
Diaz describes the difficulties of separating a person from the nation. The Dominican immigrants in the US feels connected to their motherland even though they are separated from their people back home. Diaz uses Yunior, the narrator, to portray a combination of the history of the Dominican Republic and the popular culture in New Jersey. It appears that the nation and the individual are intertwined. In some instances, an individual is used to represent the nation. For instance, Derrick Walcott says, “…I am either a nation or nobody…” (Diaz 34).
What strikes me is the author’s ability to invoke the historical aspects of South America and the problems taking place at the time. For instance, the author blames colonialism and neocolonialism for the social problems facing the Dominican society as well as the immigrants. One can see that Trujillo’s violent dictatorship is inherited from colonialism. It appears that the whole society is cursed because the fuku has been perpetrating violent on the citizens, including those forced out of the country. Trujillo’s violent dictatorship is a curse to society. It causes massive immigration, death, and displacement of innocent citizens due to widespread violations of basic human rights. The author argues that the only way to kill the curse is to end Trujillo’s regime.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York, New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. Print.
Greiner, Daniel. Forms and effects of violence in “The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao”. New York: GRIN Publishers, 2012. Print.