The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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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?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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According to Yunior, the narrator of much of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the whole story itself is an account of fuku, the curse that has plagued the De Leon and Cabral families for so many years. In telling the story, Yunior believes that he is invoking the power of zafa, a supernatural force that is somehow meant to ward off the destructive counterforce of fuku.

The concept of fuku, or to give it its full name, fuku americanus, is intimately linked not just to misfortune in general but specifically to misfortune that leads to violence. It is apparently a traditional element in Dominican

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doctorboulware | Student

As its “midwife” and one of its victims, Christopher Columbus unleashed fukú onto the New World, and according to Díaz, we are still suffering its wrath (1). Fukú is the novel’s thematic core and its villain, the quasi-mystical force that haunts Oscar Wao and that he ultimately dies trying to defeat.

In the novel’s opening pages, Yunior, the narrator, describes how the Curse and the Doom of the New World has manifested throughout history, from Columbus’ painful and prolonged death from syphilis (which he likely brought to the New World) to the Kennedy assassinations, and even John Kennedy, Jr.’s death in a plane crash (while his Dominican cook was preparing him dinner). Fukú is responsible for Vietnam War, and all manner of other American military incursions across the globe, including Díaz’s home country of the Dominican Republic, where Columbus first landed in the New World. Beyond war fukú, is responsible for the regime of the violent Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and other U.S. and European-supported tyrants in the so-called Third World, as well as various social problems and injustices rooted in colonialism, such as racism, sexism, and exploitation of the poor.

The curse of the Admiral is also responsible for smaller injustices and bad luck, from family curses to heartbreak. And logic, reason, or a refusal to believe do not keep one safe from fukú. As Yunior explains, “it’s perfectly fine if you don’t believe in these ‘superstitions.’ In fact, it’s better than fine – it’s perfect. Because no matter what you believe, fukú believes in you” (5).

While fukú can be interpreted as fate, destiny, or the unstoppable force of history, it is best read as imperialism. Quite simply, fukú is European colonialism and all it has wrought ever since.