The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Essay

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For some writers, it is possible to show a life of numerous people through the eyes of one person. if an autobiographical element added into the story, it instantly becomes a depiction of the real-life events that can strongly impress the readers. The story of Dominican American writer Junot Diaz titled the Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is exactly such a story. By depicting a story of a Dominican young man who pursued his dream from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic, much to a tragic outcome, Diaz managed to tell the world a story of many people across many generations suffering from fear and the lack of freedom in a small Latin American country.

Summary and Major Ideas

On the surface, the story of the Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao appears partially autobiographical. Like Junot Diaz, Oscar Wao (whose real name is Oscar de Leon) is ethnic Dominican who grew up in New Jersey (Flood). At the same time, the element of distancing from the protagonist and titular character creates an effect of fiction. The story is told from the perspective of Oscar’s roommate Yunior who often explains various aspects of Oscar’s life.

One key element of the novel is the fuku curse that allegedly follows Oscar throughout his life and the events shown in the book. Yunior does not clearly explain the ancient fuku curse clearly, however, he provides that it is not a “ghost story from the past with no power to scare” but the real thing that can be felt after many centuries (Diaz 2). Throughout the book, it becomes clear, however, that the curse affects all descendants of the Spanish colonists who brought slavery and suffering to the American continent in the 15th century. Allegedly, those affected must also suffer from the effects of tyranny, terror, and dictatorship. The effects of this curse on Oscar in particular are one of the central ideas of the story. However, some secondary stories told in the book make it clear that he’s not the only one affected.

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The novel has two narrators, Oscar’s roommate Yunior and Oscar’s sister Lola. While Yunior tells mostly Oscar’s story, Lola’s narrative is more autobiographical. An aspect eventually connects them is the dictatorship of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo who terrorized his people during his tenure between 1930 and 1961. After a serious conflict with her mother, Lola travels to the Dominican Republic to her grandmother who is in fact her father’s cousin. The latter tells her a story, in which Lola’s grandparents were killed as a result of Trujillo’s regime with Lola’s mother being sold into slavery and eventually freed (Diaz 252-253). From this story, it becomes quite clear that the fuku curse brought disastrous effects to the Dominican people who suffer similar terror that the slaves of the first Spanish colonists and the native peoples suffered many centuries ago.

After Lola’s first story, the novel switches back to Yunior and his story of Oscar. At this point, Oscar travels to the Dominican Republic and meets a woman named Ybon there. He falls in love with her, however, Ybon rejects Oscar’s romantic efforts due to her being romantically involved with a corrupt and violent local police officer nicknamed the Capitan. After eventually being beaten into coma by this man, Oscar resumes his attempts only to be killed by the Capitan (334-335). Yunior later suggests that the effect of the fuku curse has taken a toll on Oscar as well. In this way, Junot Diaz raises some serious points not only about the Dominican Republic and its dictatorial past, but also about karma and the way it often manifests in real life. By connecting the stories of Oscar and Lola’s ancestors under the umbrella of Trujillo’s dictatorship, Diaz demonstrates how such effects might be a sort of “payback” for suffering in the past.


The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a deeply symbolic story that depicts authoritarianism as a curse of those nations that demonstrated such attitudes in the past. Surely, people suffer from dictatorship all around the world, however, in Diaz’s vision, many of those states have a historical ground for that. This idea creates a number of implications suggesting that in order to stop the terror and suffering, it is reasonable to take a great look at the past and make all efforts to avoid them in the present.

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Works Cited

Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Penguin Publishing Group, 2007.

Flood, Alison. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Declared 21st Century’s Best Novel So Far". The Guardian, 2015,

May 12, 2022




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