The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Díaz

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Cultural identity, politics, and poverty are all important themes in Oscar Wao, particularly when the setting shifts to the Dominican Republic. But they all take a seat to the novel’s main theme: love. The problem of finding love flows through this story from beginning to end. Oscar is driven to find love as much as Yunior, who is able to have multiple sexual partners but seems incapable of fulfilling his need for love. Beli, Oscar’s mother, looked for love most of her life. She just looked in the wrong places. Her love for her children is shown in her strong desire to help them turn out better than she did. Her love comes out sounding ugly, at times, but it’s unmistakably present. Lola appears to seek love less than the other characters. She loves adventure, though; and she loves Oscar, though it is a distant love at times. Then there is La Inca, whose love is completely unconditional, as she gives it over and over again no matter how many times it turns and smacks her in the face.

On the other side of love is the theme of brutality. This comes from political policy, jealous lovers, social interactions, and even from inside some of the characters. Brutal thoughts, like those of suicide, form a strong presence in Oscar’s life. Also brutal is Oscar’s lack of self-preservation when he blatantly courts his prostitute friend Ybón. Could he have avoided his death, or was he brutally careless with his life?

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Chapter Summaries