Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 964
Oscar comes to visit Yunior, who is living apart from Lola (they are now a couple). Yunior continues to have a problem with fidelity, which of course has upset Lola. Oscar asks Yunior for a loan so that he can pay the security deposit on an apartment. Since Oscar never asks anyone for money, Yunior thinks it is strange but willingly gives it to him. Oscar is planning on returning to his teaching job at Don Bosco. In the meantime, he has an unidentified date (which will turn out to be Ybón in the Dominican Republic). However, Yunior states that by Saturday Oscar will be gone, foreshadowing tragic events to come.
Oscar returns to the Dominican Republic and is greeted by Clivas, an acquaintance from his earlier trip. Clivas asks why Oscar has come back, though his tone indicates that he knows why, and it is not a good reason. Oscar is going to try to see Ybón once again. He states that the “Ancient Powers” will not leave him alone.
Oscar waits for Ybón. When they meet, she warns him that he must leave immediately. Although she gets into the taxi with him, she does not leave with him. Oscar tells her that all he needs is one week with her. With that small concession, he will be able to face the fact that she is now married, and that life must move on. However, she tells him that she is going to call the capitán. She does so, and when he returns to La Inca’s house, the capitán shows up within an hour. He knocks on the door, but Oscar does not answer, so the capitán leaves.
For twenty-seven days, Oscar writes and chases Ybón. He follows her to work. He stalks her car. She is terrified of him, but he will not leave. He writes letters to her. The capitán repeatedly calls him to tell him to stop, but Oscar is a man obsessed. Ybón begs him to go home.
Eventually, Lola comes to the Dominican Republic to take him home, but Oscar refuses. His mother also comes and tries to drag him back, but he will not go. Yunior also comes, and Oscar sees this as a betrayal.
One night as he and Clivas are coming home from the club, two men jump into their taxi. They beat up Oscar as much as they can within the confined space. They take the taxi out to the cane fields, Oscar knowing what is to happen. Leaving Clivas tied up in the taxi, they haul Oscar out to the fields. He sends telepathic messages to those he loves. He begs the men to understand that what he has done, he has done for love. They tell Oscar that they will let him go if he tells them what the word fuego is in English. He tells them it means “fire,” and they do.
The point of view is brought back to Yunior, Oscar’s former roommate and now Lola’s boyfriend. He provides an insider’s account of Oscar’s last days, from the vantage point of being with the family and knowing all the details. He was also one of the few people with Oscar up until the end. Oscar indicates that he feels betrayed by Yunior’s arrival in the Dominican Republic to take him home. Oscar says, “Et tu, Yunior?” This is a reference to the remark that Julius Caesar makes to his friend Brutus as the latter stabs him. Like Brutus, Yunior has joined a group that is out for the destruction of his friend. The betrayal of a friend is a tragic turn, isolating the hero. From Oscar’s point of view, this betrayal hardens his resolve to do what he has come to the Dominican Republic to do.
In this section, the author does not have the narrator or Oscar use many allusions to science fiction or fantasy works, except in footnotes. The straight presentation of facts gives the tone of an almost indifferent account of Oscar’s tragic last days. Yet this seeming indifference reveals a continued numbness on the part of Yunior. This is Oscar’s death, not his “brief wondrous life.”
The character of Clivas is presented so that there might be a witness to Oscar’s death. Because the narration is first-person point of view, the limitation is to only what can be directly observed or heard. By choosing first person, the author had to provide a necessary though insignificant character. By being tied up, Clivas is effectively removed from the action but can still serve to report the facts to Yunior, who will then include them in his narration.
It is at this point that the reader is left with the feeling of incompletion. Did Oscar reach his goal? Did he die a virgin? In this chapter, all indications are that he did die a virgin. This is a twist on the archetypal hero tale. The knight did not achieve the Grail, but he died in the attempt. Was it a noble death? Oscar did indeed meet death bravely, thinking not of fear but of love.
Although Oscar did not achieve his personal goal of losing his virginity, he did gain a moral victory of sorts. He has had a pure and unadulterated love. It is a love worth dying for—dying willingly and nobly. The fact that Oscar’s love was (perhaps) not reciprocated is not important at this point. Love exists, and so the Grail has indeed been reached. It is simply not the Grail that Oscar desired. It is the Grail that lies under that Grail: it is the Grail that life wanted Oscar to have.