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How are the tone/theme of the novel filtered througthout The Brief Wondrous Life of...

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mapeps | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted August 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM via web

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How are the tone/theme of the novel filtered througthout The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 17, 2011 at 4:40 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz filters his themes of family, love, alienation, and violence through multiple narrators (mainly Yunior).  In an interview, Diaz said:
I felt like one of the biggest absences was hiding in plain sight, which is that we actually never meet directly the protagonist. The protagonist, Oscar, is always filtered through this other narrator, Yunior. Part of it was this desire to make Oscar simultaneously present but also entirely invisible. It was a strategy to talk a lot about how do you put a story together from fragments and how you put a story together from absences.

Because of the fuku (the curse of the de Leon family and Dominicans under Trujillo's cruel regime) and Oscar's martyrdom to end it, Yunior filters the family's history in non-chronological order, tracing the curse back to its native roots, from New Jersey back to the Dominican.  At the beginning of the novel, he is an older Yunior ("the Watcher"), one who footnotes, showing his scholarly teacher identity.  The younger Yunior in the middle of the novel is much less educated, more full of machismo. Here is how Yunior filters Oscar's story:
  1. 1974-1987 - "GhettoNerd at the End of the World" - Oscar Wao
  2. 1982-1985 - "Wildwood" - Lola
  3. 1955-1962 - "The Three Heartbreaks of Belicia Cabral" - Hypatia "Belicia" Cabral
  4. 1988-1992 - "Sentimental Education" - Oscar Wao and Yunior
  5. 1944-1946 - "Poor Abelard" - Abelard Luis Cabral
  6. 1992-1995 - "Land of the Lost" - Oscar Wao
  7. "The Final Voyage" - Oscar Wao
  8. "The End of the Story" - Oscar Wao and Yunior
Yunior is very much like Diaz himself, part "ghetto nerd," part "jock"/"meathead."  Even though he is an outsider to the family and does not like Oscar at first, he inevitably fulfills Oscar's destiny by becoming a teacher and author.

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