Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1044
Summary Beli, Lola, and Yunior go down to the Dominican Republic to claim Oscar’s body. He is brought home to be buried. Beli’s cancer returns, and she will be dead within a year. Lola grieves for her mother, writing her a poem. Yunior reflects on the futility of his own...
(The entire section contains 1044 words.)
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- Chapter Summaries
Beli, Lola, and Yunior go down to the Dominican Republic to claim Oscar’s body. He is brought home to be buried. Beli’s cancer returns, and she will be dead within a year. Lola grieves for her mother, writing her a poem. Yunior reflects on the futility of his own efforts to bring some measure of comfort to the family.
Lawyers are engaged to bring about justice, but it is fruitless. There is no cooperation from the Dominican government. Ybón continues with the life she has chosen. La Inca sells her house and moves back to her childhood home. Lola vows never to return to the Dominican Republic.
Lola and Yunior break off their engagement because Lola continues to have suspicions of Yunior’s fidelity. Later he hears that she has gone to Miami, gotten pregnant, and is now married. When he calls her, she hangs up on him.
Yunior continues to think and dream about Oscar. In one dream, Oscar is in a bailey (part of a castle) surrounded by books. He is wearing a mask, but Yunior still recognizes him. Oscar holds up a book, held in seamless hands, with no title and with blank pages. A single word comes to Yunior’s mind: Zafa (breaking through the curse of fukú).
Yunior, at a time when his life is at its lowest, proclaims concession to Oscar’s past pleas that he give up this life. Ten years after Oscar’s death, he is sober and teaching composition and creative writing at a community college. He is married, has given up (to a large extent) chasing women, and devotes himself to writing. He states that he has become a new man.
Occasionally, Yunior runs into Lola, who has moved back to New Jersey with her family. Lola has a daughter, Dolores, to whom she introduces Yunior as her tio’s (uncle’s) best friend. Yunior still thinks about what could have been, but all they really talk about is Oscar.
Yunior speculates on the future visit of Lola’s daughter, when she will be seeking answers about her uncle. He will show her Oscar’s books and his writings. She wears three amulets around her neck, those that belonged to Oscar, Lola, and Beli. One day, Yunior muses, she will be the one to break the circle of the fukú.
Yunior speaks of the graphic novel Watchmen. Oscar has marked one panel (the fact that Oscar defaced a book is something that Yunior finds significant). The character seeks reassurance: “I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.” Another character, Dr. Manhattan, replies, “Nothing ever ends.”
Letters that Oscar had sent before his murder arrive. In addition, eight months after Oscar’s death, a package arrives from him. It contains two manuscripts, along with a letter to Lola. He speaks of a second package that will arrive, containing another book. Oscars states that the conclusion will explain everything, that it will contain the answer to the revocation of the fukú. But the package never arrives.
Oscar’s letter also reveals that he and Ybón did make love. They spent the weekend together before his death. Though Oscar definitely enjoyed finally making love, what intrigued him most was the small “intimacies” of their daily lives. He asks Ybón what he should call this long wait to lose his virginity. She suggests that they simply call it “life.”
The final chapter, with the two epilogues, provide a satisfactory conclusion to the novel. As much as possible, the author (through Yunior’s perspective) ties up most of the loose ends about Oscar. The questions that remain: Is this work a tragedy or a comedy, in the Aristotelian sense? Did Oscar, the tragic hero, fall due to his fatal flaws? Did Oscar rise above his flaws and obstacles to a higher place?
Although Oscar did in fact die, the case could be made that his death is not a tragedy. Before his death, Oscar did find what he had been seeking, and even more. Though he had selected as his Grail the loss of virginity, he discovered that pure and unadulterated love was much more than sex. It was the small intimacies that he so cherished in his final days with Ybón. His death was not a defeat. It was simply a transfer to a higher plane of existence, the place that all heroes go once they have completed their quest. Though Beli had to face an unsatisfied death, both Lola and Yunior achieved happiness. The concept of home had been redeemed in both their marriages.
In a larger sense, Yunior’s dream of Oscar holding the book of blank pages, with the word Zafa connected to it, portrays Oscar in a type of resurrection, holding out the promise of redemption to the family.
The character of Dolores (a name that means “sorrow”) provides an interesting continuation of the story. Yunior speculates that she will be the one to break the cycle of fukú for the family. Yunior advances himself to the role of mentor, in a much more complete and wise way than he did with Oscar. Her very name reminds the reader of the story of the Fisher King, who had received the Dolorous Stroke that created the Waste Land. But instead of devastation, this Dolores will bring healing. Dolores is the child of promise.
An important role in the tale of the archetypal hero is the legacy that hero leaves behind. Oscar’s “brief wondrous life” provides such a legacy that will be passed on through both Lola and Yunior. There is some satisfaction in the fact that the two did not marry each other. Exponentially the legacy can more pervasively be passed on through two separate families, as opposed to just the one family should they have married.
Through the lives of Lola and Yunior, there is some sense that, in accordance with the legend of the Fisher King and the Dolorous Stroke, salvation is brought to the family. Through his death, Oscar has been healed of the wound of the Dolorous Stroke. The Waste Land is no more. The kingdom, through Oscar’s sacrifice for love, has been redeemed.