In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz tells the story of a family of Dominican immigrants, focusing primarily on the life of Oscar de León, a descendant of the diaspora that directly experienced the horrors of the Trujillo regime of the mid 20th century. The de Leon family can’t seem to escape the fukú, the seemingly eternal curse that has afflicted the new world for centuries. In order to tell Oscar’s story, Diaz uses the postmodern narrative to weave a story that is not only emotionally potent, but most importantly as a tool to depict the unique, nuanced perspectives of a generation of youths whose identities are both divergent from their parent culture, while simultaneously deeply rooted in its ideals and inescapable history.
Post-modern narratives are those that challenge the conventions of traditional storytelling as a way of representing reality. Diaz utilizes the post-modern narrative mainly through the style of his narration. Through the lens of Yunior, he presents a narration that is not necessarily trustworthy and often openly aware of its lack of omniscience. Also, his narrative doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion. Diaz tells the story of Oscar, and intermittently takes the time to flesh out the lives of Lola, Belicia, and Abelard, with which the details of their lives are all intertwined.
One of the largest implications of the horrors of the Trujillo regime is the diaspora that resulted after his fall. The generation that includes Oscar, Lola, and Yunior is the first to be raised as a part of the diasporic communities in North America, particularly in Paterson, New Jersey. Due to their parents, who are natives of the Dominican Republic, the children are still entrenched in their own Dominican culture and identity. For example, Oscar is raised to be a Dominican man, and is punished by his mother when he doesn’t live up to the standards established by his predecessors. Yunior himself, in his ability to be a suave player, identifies with that strong Dominican persona, likely because he was raised with the same cultural values as Oscar. While these values indicate a strong attachment to their culture and history, the style of the narration also indicates the differences between the pre/post–diaspora generations.
At the beginning of the novel, Yunior, the narrator unbeknownst to the reader, hopes that “as I write these words I wonder if this book ain’t a zafa of sorts. My very own counterspell. (Diaz 7).” At this point it is clear that the narrator, whoever he/she is, has a personal involvement in the story. Once we learn that the narrator of the story is actually Yunior, the narrative takes on a whole new meaning. This is no longer a simple retelling of events, but a narrative with a self-conscious quality. Once we realize that Yunior is actually a character in the story, the narrative transcends the traditional role of simply telling a story, becoming the agent of a character’s freedom.
Yunior’s position as...