How does Oscar acheive the theme of American Dream in The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Oscar achieves the American Dream without ever really recognizing it. The American Dream as a concept is really centered around the freedom to pursue success uninhibited by social class distinctions or other barriers. It could be argued that Oscar, as the child of an immigrant, achieves the American Dream just...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Oscar achieves the American Dream without ever really recognizing it. The American Dream as a concept is really centered around the freedom to pursue success uninhibited by social class distinctions or other barriers. It could be argued that Oscar, as the child of an immigrant, achieves the American Dream just by graduating college and getting a job as a teacher at the local high school. His mother's low financial class and language barrier does not hinder him in his life because of the ideals of freedom and opportunity. He achieved upward social mobility, and through his hard work at college, he was able to secure a stable life. Now, whether he is happy and content is a completely different question, but often the "pursuit of happiness" is thought of when considering the American Dream. However, the Google definition of the American Dream is "the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative." Regardless of whether one's personal definition of success includes happiness, Oscar's yearning for sex and incessant unfulfilled desires really have nothing to do with the quintessential American Dream in its essence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I'm not sure that Oscar achieves the American dream himself, but I do think that Oscar helps Yunior and Lola to achieve it.

The American dream is, at its height, a belief that one can go from rags to riches almost overnight.  More realistically, however, it is the simple hope that each generation will have it better than the one before.  Early in Oscar's life, he hopes for the former fantasy: he wanted love (or at least sex) and artistic fame (to be a Latino Tolkien).  When it doesn't happen, he gets fat--orca fat.  It is not until his last year did Oscar realize the latter: that by becoming a martyr for the fuku can he give Lola a chance at love and Yunior a chance at becoming an artist.

Throughout the novel, Oscar slowly moves from fantasy to reality, and his depiction of the American dream follows suit.  Finally, he realizes that, by going to the Dominican Republic and doggedly confronting his family history and pursuing love, can he end generations of suffering at the hands of the fuku.  As a result, Oscar's death helps Lola to marry, have a daughter, and escape the fate of Belli.  Thanks to Oscar, no longer is Lola the victim of sexism and male dominance.  Likewise, Oscar's death haunts Yunior to achieve his literary potential; he takes over where Oscar left off: by teaching and writing.  So says eNotes:

Yunior is haunted by dreams of Oscar until he decides to clean up his life. Yunior decides to teach college and get married, declaring himself "a new man" and that he "learned that from Oscar."

Ironically, the achievement of the American dream is the very publication of the novel itself, for Junot Diaz (very much a ghetto nerd like Oscar and a meathead like Yunior) was able to be saved from the streets by education (attending Rutgers) and language (writing Latino and fantasy-infused fiction).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team