The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Díaz

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What are three differences between Lola and Beli in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

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Lola and Beli don't have a lot in common. Lola is a little more optimistic, tries to take responsibility for things, and is more gentle than her mother.

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In Junot Diaz's novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao , Lola and her mother, Beli, actually have a lot in common, but there are also significant differences between them in terms of how they look at the world, how they respond to the world, and how they...

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interact with other people.

While Lola is not exactly an optimistic person, she generally has a brighter outlook than Beli. Of course, she has not lived as long nor suffered as much as her mother. Lola takes comfort in her books and her running, hobbies that her work-addicted mother lacks. Further, Lola still responds to gentleness from others and settles well into her new home when she goes to live with La Inca.

Lola and Beli are also quite different in how they respond to the world. Lola tends to retreat within herself, while Beli shouts and screams. Beli can no longer handle what the world throws at her without anger. Lola still can. Lola takes practical responsibility for things, cooking and caring for her brother. Beli works, but she doesn't seem to be able to handle much more than that.

Finally, the mother and daughter are different in how they interact with other people. Lola cares for her brother, for instance, while Beli tends to ignore her children or be verbally abusive toward her daughter. Lola embraces the influence of La Inca, who teaches her how to have compassion for others. Beli, on the other hand, tends to be harsh and even cruel.

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Identify three specific ways that Lola is like her mother, Beli, and three ways that Lola and Beli are different in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Three ways that Lola and her mother, Beli, are alike are their efforts to use sexuality to escape their situation, confidence and abandonment issues, and desire for a positive maternal association. Differences between them include the environment in which they grew up, attitude toward education, and their relationship with Oscar.

As adolescents, Lola and Beli both tried to use sexuality to attract men they believed could benefit or support them, only to end up being used themselves. Both women have issues with self-confidence that stem from feeling abandoned or rejected by their parents. This in turn leads them to value a positive relationship with a mother figure. In Lola’s case, her own mother cannot fulfill that longing, while Beli bonded closely with La Inca.

Beli was raised in the politically charged atmosphere of the Dominican Republic, then moved to the United States. Her daughter grew up in New York, then later traveled to her ancestral homeland. Beli’s aspirations were limited in that environment, and she did not expect to pursue higher education. Lola, however, attends college. As Oscar’s sister, Lola tries to protect him and worries about his emotional problems, but Beli believes in being strict.

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What are three ways Lola is like her mother, Beli, in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

Three similarities between Lola and Beli are that they lack nurturing maternal figures in their lives, make serious mistakes in their relationships with men, and have a rebellious streak.

Neither Beli nor Lola is able to lean into a nurturing maternal presence. When Beli was around two months old, her mother stepped in front of a truck and was drug to her death. Since her father was in prison, this left Beli at the mercy of her extended family. No one wanted this underweight, sickly, and very dark baby; she was thus sold to complete strangers and lived in poverty for an extended period.

Beli therefore has no firsthand knowledge about how to be the mother her own daughter needs. Lola is emotionally overwhelmed by her mother's cruelty and rebels as a means of asserting her own boundaries. She is sent away, effectively cutting her off from her mother's influence. She, too, becomes an orphan of sorts in a land far from the home she knows.

Both Beli and Lola also make some serious missteps with men. Once Beli recognizes the power of her new womanly curves, she strategically uses her movements to capture men's interests. Jack Pujols, who is the "whitest" boy she knows, begins taking her for rides in his Mercedes. He begins using her for sex; at the time, she believes that this means that she is "finally on her way" and that this is "the beginning of something big," which turns out to be a serious miscalculation. When Lola gets particularly angry with Beli, she runs away with a white boy named Aldo. She has sex with him and pretends to enjoy it; the experience is "miserable" and she believes intimacy with Aldo is the "stupidest thing [she] ever did."

Both Beli and Lola also have a strong rebellious streak. Lola rebels by becoming a "punk chick." She has a feisty personality that cuts through the superficialities of ordinary life. Lola believes that showing her mother any sign of "weakness" is unfathomable and believes that Beli is the scariest person she's ever known. Beli rebels against the norms of parenting, hitting her children anywhere, in front of anyone. Both Lola and Beli have a "wildness" in their personalities that refuses to bend to expectations.

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