What is a good argument that could be used in an essay to describe the impact of fuku and what Junot Diaz is saying about it in this novel?
To begin with, we can define fuku as a curse that the novel's narrator illustrates as being the source of all of the bad luck and tragedy that befalls the Wao family throughout the novel. He also claims that it is responsible for the evil in the world, having been brought to the New World by European settlers. Fuku provides the story with a supernatural element, which contextualizes the events of Oscar's life within a larger framework than the merely mundane, physical world.
Junot Diaz uses fuku to explore themes of fates and destiny. If all of Oscar's actions are supposedly controlled by supernatural powers like fuku that are beyond his grasp, then why bother living at all? Oscar struggles constantly with this, as his desire for life and the many beautiful things he finds in it is constantly met by tragic events and circumstances not within his control that threaten both his fleeting happiness and livelihood. For example, it is pretty unlucky that the woman who Oscar finds himself deeply and uncontrollably in love with, Ybon, happens to have had a previous relationship with a jealous, abusive, and vindictive man, the Capitan, who will not allow them to be together. The Capitan, like Trujillo, could even be taken as a physical manifestation of fuku, as he is a force hell bent on senseless evil and destruction.
However, Diaz also seems to be exploring the importance of taking control of one's destiny and being accountable for one's actions. While many of the events in Oscar's life are certainly tragic and unpreventable, there are also many decisions he makes that prove detrimental to his life. For example, it is his choice to fly back to the island and return to Ybon's house in spite of the multiple warnings he has been given. By willingly submitting himself to such dangers, it is difficult to believe that his eventual murder is a mere twist of fate.
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the Watcher (the older Yunior) first mentions the fuku in the footnotes. This curse is linked to the rotten luck of Oscar's family, Trujillo, and even the Kennedy clan. He says it starts with Columbus, when he brought syphilis to the New World. Ironically, a Scientific American article (January 15, 2008) “Did Columbus Bring Syphilis to Europe?” confirms that he might have.
After reading the novel, the fuku becomes a leitmotif that could be any of the following:
- a curse
- venereal disease
- the "f#*k you"
Diaz arranges the novel in reverse chronological order to show how the curse has affected the DeLeons: first with Lola, then Beli, and on to Abelard Cabral’s decision to hide his wife and daughter in Chapter 5.
Finally, Oscar's quest for love is materialized when he makes the redemptive sacrifice of tracing the fuku back to its source, in the DR, and--with his death--ends it.