The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Questions and Answers
by Junot Diaz

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In terms of narrative technique, why did the writer incorporate footnotes, and what are the importance of the footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

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The footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao serve as a guidepost to make the novel more accessible, without becoming academic and dry. Oscar Wao's story is one that lacks luck, fulfillment, and direction, and this is explained as a direct result of his family's fukú. Fukú is a uniquely Dominican concept of the ramifications of colonization, and in order to understand Oscar, the reader must understand where he comes from. In much the same way that the author chose to write the book in English rather than Spanish, the footnotes serve as a way to open Oscar's story up to more people than would otherwise be able to relate to him. They provide essential background knowledge that, to a Dominican or Dominican American, might seem mundane. They're the background narration that serves to raise the stakes. If, for example, the reader did not know much Dominican history, Beli's entire story as impacted by Trujillo might seem exaggerated. But the constant interjection of the footnotes...

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