But Oscar and Yunior seem to believe that telling the history of the de Leon family will, somehow, counteract the fukú that haunts them. However, it seems that a critical element of the effort is the act of revealing the truth, of recovering history and undoing its erasures. Blank pages also recur as a motif in dreams that both Oscar and Yunior have, sending both of them a message about how essential it is for them to write about the family's lost history in order to end its curse. But Oscar does drop several cryptic clues. Out of this new narrative — in the words of Hall, a “retelling of the past” (235) — may arise a new cultural identity, similarly whole, white and pure, itself a blank page. (78), — Junot DíazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao demands that its interpretation grapple with historical forces writ large. Excerpt: 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' Excerpt: 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' Having just been rescued by her aunt La Inca, Beli has no history and no identity save for those of oppression and cruelty. By Junot Díaz. In the first. For her, the past is not a source of comfort and belonging. unrealized desire for love while growing up in New Jersey. Furthermore, as Hall suggests, the formation of cultural identity is not simply a matter of “archeology,” or the uncovering of historical truth; it is a matter of “production,” of reimagining and reinventing the past (235). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Power. So deep is the Dominican obsession with whiteness, or more critically, not–blackness, that at her birth, Beli’s dark skin is viewed as an “ill omen” (Díaz 248). Characters like Beli, for example, have blank pages for themselves when they refuse to speak or think about periods of their own lives. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: ). Don't be alarmed, dear readers; as the Domincan Republic's most feared dictator, Mr. Trujillo hovers over the entire novel. However, we may well expect some negative repercussions or conflicts to emerge from such a troubled collective past; as mixed–race descendants of the colonists, the slaves, and the indigenous peoples, the Dominican people share a history of both hegemony and victimization. Instant downloads of all 1389 LitChart PDFs In other words, the epic rests on an idealized version of the world projected into the past by people living in the present. Had it not been a monthly selection of my local book club, I would have missed it and what a loss it would have been. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao essays are academic essays for citation. That family history, the simplified main storyline, follows the overweight, sci–fi–obsessed Oscar de Leon as he struggles with his Dominican identity and his cruelly. Hall, a cultural theorist who has also written on cultural hegemony and the evolving forms of diaspora, challenges the conventional notion that cultural identity arises naturally out of a constant, objective history shared by a particular group. Adopting Yunior’s version of history, then, would be a simple reversion to the. Their very own pagina en … Yunior notices that Oscar’s “eyes are smiling” and thinks to himself, “Zafa” (Díaz 325), which, as explained in the preface, is the counterspell to the fukú. And yet, the fukú lives on, both in their stories of the past and in their identity. Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey.He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist; and a debut picture book, Islandborn. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao offers Oscar de León as a prime example of a nice guy manhood. Interspersed among the pieces of Oscar’s story are episodes from the lives of his grandfather Abelard and his mother Beli that trace out a calamitous family history haunted by the presence of a mysterious curse, the fukú. Similarly, the inspiring words that the Mongoose speaks to Oscar and Beli to convince them to survive are rendered literally as blank lines in the text. For Hall, the coexistence of these Présences in Caribbean identity evidences the complex fluidity that subverts the view of identity as stable, singular, and anchored. (302). To learn more about Exposé's print and digital aspects, visit the About page. Indeed, to take the novel only at its face value — as a recounting of the history of the de Leon family stretching from the Dominican Republic under Rafael Trujillo to diaspora in New Jersey — is to rob it of vital context and some of its most compelling themes. A particularly salient thread in the novel, a thread that Hall’s insights will help us to analyze, involves the conflict lurking in the identity of the Dominican people at large. Here, it seems, lies the coherent narrative thread for which we have been searching, the novel’s own raison d’être. We may be tempted here to read this dynamism as creating conflict, but in Hall’s view, this is not necessarily the case. conflict between Hall’s three Présences into the reader’s awareness, highlighting among other things his own people’s continued use of criadas, or house slaves, and their hypocritical hatred of dark skin (Díaz 253). The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. This was also annoying because it meant that I couldn't really read on the subway or elsewhere without an internet connection, unless I wanted to miss out on half of the story. “The Exploding Planet of Junot Díaz.” Interview by Evelyn Ch’ien. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Junot Díaz 56-page comprehensive study guide Features detailed chapter by chapter summaries and multiple sections of expert analysis The ultimate resource for class assignments, lesson planning, or … As a result, the Dominican people are especially susceptible to Trujillo’s deceptive promise of an identity free of conflict. Exposé, the annual journal published by the Harvard College Writing Program, features a cross section of writing from the University community. In the novel, Trujillo has supernatural powers. Instead, it is a “dark period” never to be referenced, a pagina en blanco (Díaz 78) or a blank page. “Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel.”. Blank pages recur throughout the novel, sometimes as pieces of paper that are literally blank, and sometimes as writing that has been lost or erased. It seems ripe, then, for. Applying Hall’s theory of cultural identity, it would seem that the identity the Dominican people have constructed is built from an incomplete retelling of the past, one that ignores an uncomfortable truth. He writes his retelling in order to heal the identity of his people. Junot Diaz uses the language to more colourfully illustrate everything; and I found it … The old man had a mask, on. Given that all of this happens after Oscar has virtually the same blank–book dream as Yunior, it might be reasonable to conclude that the apparently critical task which occupies Oscar in his last days is the same task that he later passes on to Yunior; it is the task of filling the paginas en blanco with the history of his family and of the fukú. After the imprisonment of Beli’s father Abelard, for example, Trujillo ensures that “not one single example of his handwriting remains” (Díaz 246). Putting these two forces together, and looking into possible ramifications for a theory of cultural identity, will help us piece together a better understanding of the novel’s cultural and historical place. Struggling with distance learning? Dorky, overweight and painfully self-deprecating, Oscar is far from an example of hegemonic Dominican masculinity in that he is lacking sexual experience, a suave personality, conventionally fit … ———. Nanita’s biography reveals the extent to which the historical figure of Trujillo erased part of his own genealogical history by replacing it with a narrative of European purity. But even the most personal and individual of these storylines are always tied inextricably to the history of the Dominican people as a whole, a feat that Díaz accomplishes with frequent, discursive footnotes providing commentary and context. His analysis, though focused on the Caribbean as a whole, applies. In this respect, fuku is symbolically represented through the governmental authorities and antagonists, including the cruel dictator Trujillo who persecutes Oscar, his mother, and his grandfather. Junot Díaz. “Oscar Wao,” from the title, is the nickname his tormentors give to him based on their mispronunciation of “Oscar Wilde.”. Consequently, the Dominican identity as rendered by Díaz is, like Beli’s identity, somewhat damaged, somewhat lacking. At the beginning of her episode in the novel, Beli has spent the first nine years of her life estranged from her family, living as a house slave in a slum of the Dominican Republic. Ubiquitous footnotes outlining the history of the Dominican Republic likewise attempt to reverse Trujillo’s suppression of historical truth. 'The Best Novel of the 21st Century to Date' - BBC Culture. But the blankness of the book, a collection of paginas en blanco, suggests that the story of this past is untold, perhaps silenced by colonialism and dictatorship. The longevity and viability of a particular retelling of the past arise not out of its faithfulness to history but out of its value to the identity of a people. But the fukú is actually much more insidious. Maybe you should be really, really alarmed. In fact, Yunior’s narrative project, cleaving closely to factual history, combats Trujillo’s legacy of half–truths and silences on behalf of the entire Dominican Republic. Opinion of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: I found this novel to be very unique. Indeed, in Díaz’s novel, unlike as in Hall’s real–world analysis, the instability and contradiction within the Dominican identity produces a major consequence: the fukú. So he's important enough to put up front. This culminates in the lost letter that Oscar sent back from the DR; though Oscar said that the letter would illuminate everything he … The history of the Dominican Republic under Trujillo is replete with such paginas en blanco, both figurative and literal. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. Instead, Hall argues, this identity is actively and continuously constructed from mutable, subjective recreations of that history (237). natural state of affairs, a state more likely to endure than delusion. Filling the Blank Pages in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Filling the Blank Pages. While the images of darkness and this blank page may seem contradictory, their juxtaposition illuminates a critical distinction. In this more supernatural sense, the fukú is the effort of inescapable history to force the Dominican people to recognize its existence. Just before his death, Oscar writes a letter to his sister Lola telling her to expect a package from him containing his writings, which he calls “the cure to what ails us… The Cosmo DNA” (Díaz 332), referencing a wish–fulfilling machine from a comic book series. La Inca seeks to fill the void of the young girl’s past with stories of “her family’s illustrious history” (Díaz 78), hoping that she will adopt the mantle of her ancestry and restore the fallen “House of Cabral.” In other words, La Inca provides Beli with the source of a new identity via retellings of a shared family history. The book has many complex and underlining themes but I was most intrigued with this connection between Fuku, Zafa and Trujillo and how I could further connect that to the racial difficulties they are still facing. What's certain is that nothing’s certain. the brief wondrous life oscar waoof R 80478 001-340 r2k.qxp 6/19/08 11:50 AM Page 14. I was reading "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Díaz, and it was extremely slow going since I need my laptop nearby the entire time, with Wikipedia, Google, and Google translate open. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Díaz. Such a narrative is crucial for the Trujillo regime’s goal of constructing a unified state out of a population fraught with division. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz follows a three generational battle with fuku and the infamous dictator Trujillo. Another footnote tells the story of Joaquin Balaguer, a former member of the Trujillo regime who promises to reveal the identity of a journalist’s murderer via a pagina en blanco in his autobiography — a purposefully constructed hole in history — to be filled upon his death (Díaz 90). Historically, the mongoosewas imported from Asia during the 18th century. I have never read a novel that had so much profanity in it, let alone one that used the profanity to help the book along. Mongooses appear throughout The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as guardians of the family. Their very own pagina en blanco. Hall may categorize the act of recreating the past by retelling it as a positive and primarily artistic effort, but in the context of Díaz’s novel, that act becomes a critical weapon for those who battle to redefine Dominican cultural identity. Oscar spends much of his twenty–seven days researching and writing something, the nature of which is never explicitly revealed. From these clues, we may deduce that the fukú represents both colonialism and its legacy, which brought the Dominican people into being and cursed their existence. Trujillo, of course, is not the only individual with the ability to recreate history; Yunior, too, as the novel’s narrator, has the same ability. Abelard’s books are also turned into blank pages when Trujillo destroys everything Abelard ever wrote, leaving Beli clueless about her own heritage. Hall, Stuart. This book takes place during the regime and era of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina known as El Jefe, one of the most ruthless and brutal dictators of the Dominican Republic in power from 1930 to 1961. With dazzling energy and insight Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous lives of Oscar; and in the family's uproarious journey from the Dominican Republic to the US and back. His opponent is Yunior de Las Casas, who befriends Oscar in college and narrates the novel many years after Trujillo’s death. -Graham S. The timeline below shows where the symbol Páginas en blanco (Blank pages) appears in, Book 2, Chapter 6: Land of the Lost (1992-1995), ...nothing but an “Aslan-like figure with golden eyes” and a man wearing a mask holding, ...books and Oscar wears a mask that covers everything but his eyes. Thus we can see that Stuart Hall’s theory of cultural identity applies succinctly to the world of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His regime sought to construct a false history designed to forge a new, “pure” cultural identity for the Dominican Republic, an identity that Yunior might describe as free of the fukú. Hall develops this definition with particular regard to the cultural identity of the Caribbean peoples, a diverse group for whom the concept of a shared history centered on Africa is more myth than fact. That value, however, is by no means a constant. Throughout the novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, written by Junot Diaz, sex and masculinity is the vital element in being a Dominican male. Over the course of the novel, however, the fukú develops a remarkable density of associations and potential meanings that never truly resolve, leaving its interpretation to inference. Throughout the novel, blank pages are a reminder that someone has to control your story – it could be someone else with a malicious agenda, or it could be you. In the novel, the dictator Rafael Trujillo capitalizes on the conflict within his people’s identity by seducing them with a palatable if whitewashed retelling of their history; in this sense, their history becomes his. ———. The The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Mongoose and the Man with No Face. In this sense, we can read the novel as a history, one that seeks to describe and shape the cultural identity of its Dominican characters. Previous Next ... Later, when he wrote his memoirs, he claimed to have known who had done the foul deed (not him, of course) and left a blank page, a página en blanco [blank page], in the text to be filled in with the truth upon his death. Yunior links the blank pages to the family's curse, and both Abelard and Oscar allegedly write long manuscripts that go missing, leaving the possible pages they wrote blank for the reader to fill in. Cultural identity for Díaz is a site of conflict, in which redemption is possible but never realized. 133 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao If he’d been a different nigger he might have considered the galletazo. here and there but nothing more” (Díaz 243). Still, an important question remains: how is Yunior and Oscar’s project of redemption to be realized via the retelling of the past? Surname1 Students Name Professors Name Course Institutional Affiliate Date The Brief Wondrous Life by Oscar Wao Introduction The restructuring of history and the discovery and reevaluation of structures previously formed by the colonial regime that was imposed were part of deciding who or what would be considered Americano. From this perspective, Oscar’s presentation of the blank book to Yunior is not a cruel reminder of the erasure of the past but instead an invitation to fill the book with the history that it lacks. In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz often resorts to symbolism and symbolic relations between characters, which is typical of magic realism style. This summary of the novel, and particularly La Inca’s project of retelling a shared family history, resonates strongly with Stuart Hall’s theory of identity formation undertaken by entire cultures. between Hall’s Présences; consequently, we could argue that conflict is a part of the Dominican identity. Simply described, the fukú is a curse. In his response to Sagal’s question, Díaz emphasized . But the novel also gives us insight into an unintended consequence of Hall’s theory of cultural identity. This project of retelling is explicitly a project of redemption. Trujillo’s methods and success raise disconcerting implications for Hall’s conception of cultural identity. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican family in New Jersey, Oscar's sweet but disastrously overweight. Nanita’s section on “Biographical Data” claims that Trujillo descended from “pure Spanish stock” and, on his mother’s side, from “the France of Napoleon,” side–stepping the fact that his maternal grandmother was half–Haitian (xiii). The qualities of “exclusion, imposition, and expropriation” (242) that Hall attributes to Présence Européenne appear in the novel in the form of the Trujillo dictatorship, marked by systemic racism and oppressive interference. Junot Diaz’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao is an achingly beautiful, irresistibly harrowing depiction of Dominican Republic. The twentieth century’s one of the most disreputable dictators, Rafael Trujillo exercised absolute power over Dominican Republic like a feudal lord from February, 1930 until his assassination in May, 1961. Kind of like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. More critically, Yunior’s attack pierces beyond Trujillo to the origin of Dominican self–deception in the catastrophe of colonization and its consequence: the clash between Hall’s three Présences. “Junot Díaz: An Interview.” By Reese Kwon. Embraced the amnesia that was so common throughout the Islands, five parts denial, five parts negative hallucination. If the book's called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, then why is the madman Rafael Leónidas Trujillo one of the first characters we meet in it? Oscar shows Yunior, “Would not have made it through AP Literature without the printable PDFs. After vicious cycles of failure and depression, Oscar finally finds love in the form of a middle–aged prostitute in the Dominican Republic, only to meet death by gunfire at the command of her jealous boyfriend, a corrupt cop. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2008; an amazing and riveting work of fiction. It seems, at this point, that the image of the blank page in the novel stands for repression, erasure, and concealment. The only answer I can give you is the least satisfying: you'll have to decide for yourself. Interpreted in this manner, the dream forces Oscar to confront the emptiness of a history suppressed by centuries of authoritarian rule and cultural self–deception. Before 1951, our orphaned girl had lived with another foster family, monstrous people if the rumors are to be believed, a dark period of her life neither she nor her madre ever referenced. By the end, he believes he has uncovered the secret to stopping the succession of the fukú from generation to generation of his family. On one level, the fukú is simply a curse like other curses, bringing misfortune to a woman who had “been denied happiness because she laughed at a rival’s funeral” (Díaz 5). As Yunior’s narrative implies, the blank book signifies not only the suppression of the past but also the possibility of. Harvard University | Harvard College Writing Program. While fukú stories are common within individual families, the story of the fukú’s ultimate origin, the unpleasant history of colonialism and slavery, is rarely told. On the other hand, Hall’s theory does not quite account for the ways in which, in this novel, the act of retelling the past becomes a weapon in a battle with heavy consequences. Dominican males according to Yunior, the narrator of the novel, is someone who has power and pizzazz, dominates women, controls female sexuality through physical violence and verbal aggression and lastly protects their family. As a zafa, the book is more than a simple retelling of the past; it is redemptive. Indeed, an overarching plot of the novel concerns the consequences of the damage in the Dominican identity and opposing efforts to exploit or heal that damage. For as much as it purports to tell the story of a single, central family, it is thoroughly embedded in the vivid, unflinching, and tragic history of an entire country: the Dominican Republic. In Díaz ’s novel, then, cultural identity becomes a site of conflict and disruption, a site in which redemption is possible but never complete. The history of this culture, scarred by the violence of colonialism and the horrors of slavery, mirrors Beli’s own experiences in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; for the Dominicans who populate Díaz’s novel, the tortured past is, to some degree, a blank page, a dark period they prefer to be left unexamined. The novel, in other words, allows us to see a troubling ramification of an unstable cultural identity: a conflict that resists the efforts of the Dominican people to deny it. neither does Hall, who addresses only the functional effects of artistic representation of the past, not its intended purpose. Yunior acknowledges his inability to provide the full story in all cases because the past is rarely recoverable; in the end, he says, “you’ll have to decide for yourself” (Díaz 243). How di… The lack of permanence of such attempts to redefine the Dominican identity in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao would likely not surprise Hall, for whom identity is “subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture, and power” (236). Trujillo’s approach to recreating history is exemplified by a biography of the dictator written in 1957 by Abelardo Nanita, a former member of Trujillo’s cabinet. By the fukú: the unwillingness of his people the 18th century disconcerting implications for ’... 1389 LitChart PDFs ( including presented by the fukú Dominican Republic likewise attempt reverse! S rule voice for this section a population fraught with division Life Oscar. Through AP literature the brief wondrous life of oscar wao blank pages the printable PDFs, she and La Inca have to... 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