Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1003
Summary After he graduates from Rutgers, Oscar returns home with little prospects and not too worried about it. He becomes a substitute teacher at his alma mater, Don Bosco High School, and continues to write short stories and novels with little success. He is soon offered a full-time position at Don Bosco teaching English and history. He has little love for teaching and little talent. Furthermore, just as when he was a student there, he is the butt of jokes and teasing. His weight continues to make him an outcast, as well as his obsession with science fiction and fantasy. He tries to spark an interest among the students by forming a Science Fiction Club, but no one attends.
He connects with another teacher, Nataly, who is an avowed Wiccan. The two of them are the only non-clergy teachers. He dreams of have a purely sexual relationship with her (she already has a boyfriend). At the end of their first year of teaching, Nataly is transferred to another school, and their friendship comes to an end, though as usual he attempts to keep it going.
His social life continues to be at a standstill. Al and Miggs dropped out of school and they have lost touch with Oscar. Maritza is married with a child. Olga is in prison for attempted robbery.
His home life is livable but unremarkable. He survives. Lola now lives in New York. Pregnant once, she had gotten an abortion.
Oscar continues to make the rounds of usual stores. He feels a strange sense of ending when he discovers that kids are no longer into role-playing games.
After he has been teaching for three years, Oscar goes on vacation with his mother and sister back to Santo Domingo. Rather than returning to the States with Lola, Oscar decides to remain for the rest of the summer. He meets Ybón, a “semi-retired” thirty-six-year-old prostitute, and he once again falls in love. They spend a great deal of time together, but the relationship does not go the romantic way that Oscar wishes it would before he has to return home. He discovers that Ybón has a boyfriend, called the “capitán.” One night he meets the boyfriend, along with two other toughs, when he is in Ybón’s company. The capitán roughs Oscar up considerably. Then the men drive Oscar out to a cane field. There he is pistol-whipped almost to the point of death. Oscar imagines that one of them is a faceless man. Oscar is found by the taxi driver, unconscious and bleeding from both ears.
Oscar recovers, and his mother intends to take him back to the States as soon as possible. Oscar has an epiphany, realizing that the fukú might just be true after all. Ybón comes to visit him and tells him that she and the capitán are getting married, even though he had beaten her as well. Yet still he loves her, and once again he must overcome an ill-fated love. Oscar returns home and heals.
Analysis Oscar returns to his high school, first as a substitute teacher, then as a regular teacher. He seems ever-drawn to the scenes of his pain and humiliation. Rather than seeking the escape that Lola seeks, he seems willing to be trapped in the pit. His half-hearted efforts are focused more on losing his virginity than accepting his reality and making a real life for himself. He remains in his self-created fantasy world, where he will find a girl to love him, seeing what he hopes he has deep inside. Yet whatever qualities he imagines he has are in...
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fact absent. He has not made of himself what he wants to be. Bit by bit, however, he is discovering this.
As he refuses to come to grips with the futility of his life, he refuses to accept the flaws of his mother. Rather than confronting her as Lola does, Oscar fantasizes that the flaws are not there. He does not imagine any other mother in her place. This is one more unpleasantness that he blocks out of his fantasy world.
His return to the Dominican Republic with his mother and sister represents a time when once again he seeks an archetypal healing. His outcast stature in the States carries over to Santo Domingo, yet not to the degree that it is at home. He has opportunities to lose his virginity, his primary goal in life still, by visiting brothels with his cousins, but it is not sex alone that he seeks. It is sex with love. He eventually falls in love with Ybón, yet one more symbol of the unapproachable goal. Though she is a prostitute, he romanticizes her, almost as does Don Quixote with Dulcinea. In fact, Oscar can be seen as a modern-day Quixote, dreaming the impossible dream and fighting windmills. Both live in their own fantasy world and see others only in terms of that fantasy. Both must come to grips with reality and how that reality does not mesh with the fantasy on which they have based their lives.
Oscar’s beating at the hands of Ybón’s boyfriend parallels the experience of his mother almost exactly. Both dared to love someone they should not have. Both are taken out to the fields, beaten, and left for dead. Both, for the moment, survive yet in a drastically changed frame of reference. In body and spirit, the dreams have been bloodied. In a similar manner, Abelard was beaten, though he did not remain free. Oscar at last sees the connection, believing in the fukú. With his fascination with fantasy, it seems odd that he does not readily believe in it. This shows how drastically he separates his fantasy world from the real world. His fantasy world, with all its implications and logical conclusions, would not be much different from reality should it come to pass. It is this realization with which Oscar must contend, if he is to survive.