The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Díaz

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Where is juxtaposition found in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

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In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, juxtaposition can be found in Junot Díaz’s use of multiple different types of diction.

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Juxtaposition can be understood as a writer’s choice to place two different things next to one another to highlight how they are similar or different. In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, author Junot Díaz juxtaposes different narrative voices and styles of diction.

The narrator, Yunior, changes the way he speaks—that is, he changes his diction—throughout the book. For example, Yunior’s diction can at times sound very academic:

Trujillo, one of the twentieth century’s most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality … At first glance, he was just your prototypical Latin American caudillo, but his power was terminal in ways that few historians or writers have ever truly captured or, I would argue, imagined.

Doesn’t he sound like something out of a history book?

In other areas of the book, Yunior uses slang and profanity. He even sprinkles his narration with Spanish words, adding another dimension to the diction.

This change in diction—from what society considers “proper” speech to what is perceived as “street”—is sometimes referred to as code switching. This takes places when a person adjusts the way they speak depending on the social context or situation.

When you notice this code switching, or the change in Yunior’s way of speaking, you are noticing the juxtaposition of formal and informal diction. The next step would be to think about how this juxtaposition impacts the meaning of the story. For example, do you think readers would be surprised that Yunior can speak these two “languages?” What does Díaz suggest about Yunior as a character through this juxtaposition of diction types?

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