The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Díaz

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Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

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Summary The introduction of Part II is told from the viewpoint of Lola. She unwillingly returns to the U.S. after Max, her lover, dies. It is revealed that he is the father of one of her classmates. Though she had demanded two thousand dollars from him in exchange for sex, she returns it to his family after his death.

Her mother picks up the abuse where she left off. Told in flashback, Lola expresses an understanding of Beli, now that she herself is a mother. When she gets on the plane, Lola breaks down and weeps uncontrollably all the way home.

In Chapter 5 (which reverts to the unidentified narrator with the footnotes), the focus is on Abelard Cabral, Lola and Oscar’s grandfather. The Cabrals were one of the upper class. As Trujillo gains power, Cabral begins to leave his wife and oldest daughter at home to avoid exposing them to the possibility of rape by the dictator. Deliberately hiding his women from Trujillo, however, was a big risk.

Abelard lives in fear of what he knows is inevitable. He begins to drink, he makes mistakes with patients, and he becomes irritable at home. One day an invitation to a party arrives, with his daughter Jaquelyn’s name underlined three times, indicating that it is important that she come with her father to the party. At the last minute, however, Abelard leaves his wife and daughter at home.

Retribution arrives within a few weeks. Abelard is the victim of a setup. He is accused of “slander and calumny on the person of the President.” While friends were loading a bureau into his trunk, he joked that at least there are no dead bodies. At his trial, it is reported that he added, “Trujillo must have come to remove them.” He is convicted and sentenced to eighteen years in prison.

In prison, he is tortured and subjected to inhuman conditions. When his wife arrives for the first visit, he discovers that she is pregnant with what will turn out to be his third and final daughter, Beli.

After Beli’s birth (who is extremely dark), the fukú unleashes its fury on the Cabral family.  Sorocco, the wife of Abelard, has postpartum depression, steps in front of a truck, and is killed. Lydia, Abelard’s mistress, dies of cancer. His older daughters die within a few years.

Beli is left to the hands of relatives. When it is discovered that there will be no money attached to the care of her, she is passed from hand to hand, eventually landing in the home of a family in the poorest section of the town of Azua. When she grows up and goes to school, she is recalcitrant and often skips. When her “father” finds out about this, he pours hot oil on her back, scarring her for life.

La Inca, the cousin of Abelard, hears about this third and final daughter. She finds her, brings her home, and raises her as her own.

Analysis In this section, the point of view reverts to the unidentified but subjective narrator from Chapter 1. The footnotes that this person provides give the reader a more complete understanding of this extremely important chapter as far as exposition goes.

The symbolism of the Packard is told explicitly by the narrator: a Packard was used by Trujillo and his henchmen to perform their cruelties. Abelard has a Packard, and by extension is thus connected to Trujillo. The Packard is a symbol of power, but Trujillo alone has total power. Even though he owns a Packard, Abelard ultimately has little power, not even...

(This entire section contains 1014 words.)

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the power to protect his family from the infamous crimes of Trujillo.

This chapter functions as the conjunction of all the previous stories. Oscar, Lola, and Beli are now brought full circle. We learn the full story of the family from which Oscar springs.  Abelard is almost the starting point of the family fukú, though it is stated that the curse lies on the heads of all Dominicans.

The majority of literary allusions in this section are from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a work that would appeal to Oscar’s fantastic sensibilities. As it is in itself a hero quest, the archetypes continue to appear in the story of Abelard and Beli. Most specifically from Tolkien’s novel are the characters and settings belonging to the darkness. The reign of Trujillo is indeed dark, so these allusions would be a natural connection for someone such as Oscar. The reign of Sauron, the Dark Lord of the Rings, serves as a parallel to the reign of Trujillo. Both use their settings as food and material to feed their power, even at the expense of the destruction of the land.

Beli’s life is a descent from glory. Although coming from a prominent family, she finds herself at the mercy of the lowest and cruelest of the community. The “hidden princess” theme is applicable here. La Inca, after rescuing Beli, tells the girl her true heritage and her true destiny. This is a revelation of Truth that acts as a threshold for the hero’s choice of whether or not he or she will accept the quest. In this case, Beli does not accept it, but lives a life of sorrow and ostracism. Instead of the true “Grail” of regaining her heritage, she sinks into the pit, contented to remain there for the rest of her life.

By telling the story of Abelard, from whom Beli sprang, the author develops more sympathy for what previously has been an unlikeable character. We learn why Beli is the way she is.  Our connection is now divided between Beli, Oscar, and Lola, without any one of them claiming a clear and free good opinion. Each has been handed a battle by life. Each one has fought a battle in his or her own way. No fight has been totally admirable. But now the reader knows the background, the source, of the pain that is so prevalent in each character’s life.


Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis


Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis