The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Introduction and First Body Paragraph) / by Academy Monthly

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz, is a novel about the fight against evil, in the form of colonialism. For colonizing nations, colonialism was deemed necessary for the education and improvement of uncivilized countries. However, while these countries benefited from certain aspects of colonialism, they suffered even more, especially because of the loss of their independence. Colonialism has suppressed the culture and individuality of many countries and imposed foreign people, culture, and laws on their citizens. In the Dominican Republic, United States’ intervention left Trujillo as dictator. While he brought a certain degree of prosperity to the Dominican Republic in the form of materials and necessities, he brought even more hardship (“Rafael Leónidas"). He controlled the country and its people through a “mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror” (2). Even though the title of Díaz’s novel implies that it is about Oscar, in reality the novel examines the effects of the evils of colonialism; Díaz portrays love and writing itself as a kind of zafa, or counterspell, capable of resisting this evil.

Díaz begins his novel by articulating how the evils of colonialism at a historical, national level in the Dominican Republic caused the death of its people and the country itself. Columbus’ arrival in the New World brought “civilization” and European culture, but it also brought disease, hierarchy, and suffering. In this sense, the belief that “the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed fukú on the world” is really true (1). After Columbus, Trujillo, supported by the United States, added to the Dominican Republic’s suffering by restricting people’s civil rights, silencing their voices, and forcing his rule through violence. He placed the Plátano Curtain on the country and isolated it from the entire world. While he may have been trying to keep foreign influence and involvement out of the country, Yunior indicates that he “seemed equally intent on keeping something in” (225). Through the Curtain, Trujillo restricted the Dominican Republic’s story, history, and culture from spreading. He essentially detached the country from the rest of the world, killing its place in the world, and essentially killing it as a country. This was not the only way he killed the Dominican Republic. He also turned the country into a version of himself: selfish, individualistic, and cruel. The people, fighting for their own safety, joined Trujillo’s Secret Police and turned against their own neighbors (226). Rather than standing up together against a common evil, the people protected their own families, even if that meant harming someone else’s. For instance, there are two different stories behind Abelard’s arrest; the first is Abelard’s, which includes his innocence and laughing friends, but in the officers’ version, Abelard is guilty. The officers had “hidden ‘witnesses’” to testify against Abelard and prove him guilty. The hidden identity of these witnesses suggests that they were Abelard’s friends. This betrayal reveals Trujillo’s ability to break one of the strongest bonds, that of friendship, and truly kill the unity of the Dominican people. His impact on the Dominican Republic was so relentless that “even after death his evil lingered” (156). The word, “linger”, has a connotation of continuance and permanence, which demonstrates Trujillo’s lasting malevolence and its effect.