The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary and Analysis
by Junot Diaz
Section III: Introduction, Chapter 7, Interlude, Chapter 8, and the Final Letter
Summary of Introduction to Section III
Yunior writes an introduction to this section. He and Lola are living together in Washington Heights. Oscar visits and they smoke some weed together. Yunior says that Oscar looks as though he is at peace with himself; at first, he thinks it's because Oscar has decided to live, but later he realizes it is more complicated than that. Oscar is very thin. Oscar asks to borrow money to make a security deposit on an apartment in Brooklyn. Yunior lends it to him. They talk about Lola, Oscar tells Yunior that she loves him and asks Yunior why he cheats. Yunior says he doesn’t know. Then Oscar leaves saying he has a date. By Saturday, he has left.
Summary of Chapter 7: The Final Voyage
Oscar flies back to Santo Domingo, this time clapping with the other passengers when the plane lands. He says the Ancient Powers compelled him to go. He has Clives pick him up and take him to Ybón’s house, where he waits outside for seven hours before she comes home. He calls out to her, and she says his name—they hug, and she tells him he has to leave. He asks her to give him a week with her. She tells him to go because she is going to call the capitán. The capitán shows up an hour later and honks his horn but Oscar does not go out. He looks at all of La Inca’s photographs. La Inca comes home is surprised to find him there. Oscar writes his sister a letter saying, "It’s hard to explain."
THE CURSE OF THE CARIBBEAN
For the next twenty-seven days Oscar researches, writes and chases Ybón, going to her work place, the World Famous Riverside, as well as to other places she goes. At first, she is very scared, and then she starts telling him to go home. He makes her miserable. Ybón's boyfriend calls and threatens Oscar, and Oscar reports the threats to the police. He writes her letters. Ybón writes notes back asking Oscar to leave because she does not want him to be hurt or killed. On the nineteenth day, Ybón picks Oscar up and they drive toward La Romana and talk. La Inca uses "the voice" to try to talk Oscar out of what he is doing, Lola and Yunior fly down to try and convince Oscar to come back, and Beli flies down as well with the same message. However, nothing works.
THE LAST DAYS OF OSCAR WAO
The capitán and his friends go to the Riverside while Oscar is there. Oscar leaves. Oscar tries to kiss Ybón again in the parking lot but she turns away. Gorilla Grod and Solomon Grundy come find Oscar one night while he is in the taxi with Clives and they drive to the cane field again. Oscar does not cry this time. On the way, they pass a bus stop and Oscar briefly sees all of his family, including his dead grandparents, getting on a bus with the Mongoose as the driver and the Man Without a Face as the cobrador (the conductor on a bus). When they arrive at the field Oscar sends telepathic goodbye messages to his mother, to Lola, to his tío and to all of the girls he ever loved, including Ybón. A footnote details the message sent to Ybón, which is a quote from the Fantastic Four, assuring Ybón that she will never be alone.
Once in the cane field, Oscar tells the two men that what they are doing is wrong because they are taking a great love out of the world. He says he knows they will feel nothing, and their children will feel nothing, but that when they are about to die they will sense him waiting on the other side, where he will not be a nerd but will instead be a hero. They wait for him to finish and tell him that they will spare him if he tells them what fuego means in English. He obliges and says, “Fire.”
Summary of Chapter 8: The End of the Story
The family goes down and claims the body. They have a funeral with just them. Beli’s cancer comes back and kills her a year later, and she is buried next to Oscar. They try to file charges but nothing ever makes it through the embassy or the government. La Inca moves back to Baní. They say Ybón still lives in Mirador Norte. Lola swears she will never return, saying, “Ten million Trujillos is all we are.”
AS FOR US
Lola and Yunior break up when Lola reaches her Saturn Return. She meets someone in Miami and they get married.
ON A SUPER FINAL NOTE
Yunior still thinks about Oscar even years later. He dreams they are in Demarest at Rutgers, he wants to talk but neither of them can and they sit there quietly. Five years after his death, Yunior dreams that they are in a bailey with dusty books, and that Oscar is wearing a mask but Yunior can see his eyes. He holds up a book. For a while, Yunior runs in the dream, and then once he stays and sees the pages of the book are blank. Oscar’s eyes are smiling. “Zafa,” the book says in a one-word paragraph). However, sometimes Oscar has no face, and Yunior wakes up screaming.
After ten years, during which Yunior describes himself as lost, he wakes up and says “Ok, Wao, Ok. You win.”
AS FOR ME
Yunior lives in Perth Amboy, NJ and teaches creative writing at Middlesex Community College. He is married and does not run around anymore, or at least not much. He writes all day.
AS FOR US
Yunior still sees Lola sometimes with her daughter (Isis), and sometimes with her husband (Cuban Ruben). Before Yunior lost hope of reconciling with Lola, he would have a dream where he tries to say the three words that would save them, which he writes out as three blanks. He would wake up crying before he can say them.
Summary of Interlude (Untitled section)
Lola’s daughter Isis wears a string around her neck with three azabaches (charms believed to protect people from the evil eye). The three charms Isis wears are the one Oscar wore as a baby, the one Lola wore as a baby, and the one Beli was given when La Inca took her in. Yunior states that one day, Isis will hear the word fukú, and that one day she will also dream of the No Face Man. Then, one day she will look for answers, and she might go to Yunior for these answers. Yunior says he is prepared to show Isis Oscar’s books and papers which he stores in refrigerators. He hopes that she will take in the information and add her insights and put an end to it.
Nevertheless, sometimes Yunior feels morose, and flips through Oscar’s copy of Watchmen, one of the comics he took with him on his final trip. In it, Oscar circled a panel at the end of the story (which was a rare thing for Oscar to do). The panel is a conversation between two characters. One says “I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.” The other character says “In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”
Summary of The Final Letter
Oscar sent some mail home before he was killed, consisting of some letters and cards. Eight months after he died a package arrived. In the package were two manuscripts. One was four chapters of his space opera Starscourge and one was s letter to Lola in which he described a new book he was writing that he was also going to send. Oscar claimed this new book was “the cure to what ails us.” However, the book never came. The letter to Lola, however, contained amazing news—Oscar did manage to take a vacation for some alone time with Ybón where he was finally able to be physically intimate with her. What Oscar enjoyed the most were the little intimacies, like Ybón walking to the bathroom in her underwear, or sitting on his lap and burying her face in his neck. He was in disbelief that he had had to wait so long for this, but Ybón said would call that waiting life. Oscar writes, “So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”
Throughout this section, the reader wonders if Oscar wants to live or die. Yunior’s introduction to the section indicates that Oscar seems at peace with himself before he leaves to go to Santo Domingo for the last time. When in Santo Domingo, Beli accuses Oscar of trying to get himself killed, to which Oscar responds, “That is not what I’m trying to do.” Although that may not be Oscar’s goal, Oscar does seem aware that that is probably what is going to happen to him. Love gives Oscar power—no one can stop him from pursuing Ybón, despite their efforts. Even La Inca, who has previously demonstrated divine powers, cannot because “something” had changed.
Oscar’s speech in the cane field before his death demonstrates Oscar’s belief that belongs on the other side. Oscar has come to realize that he does not have a place in this universe—in a sense, Oscar belongs on the outside. On the other side, he can be the Dominican male he always wanted to be. His death immortalizes him, and makes him a hero and an avenger. Although Oscar’s speech is an attempt to save himself, Oscar also knows that he dies for a cause he believes in: Love. In Yunior’s report of Oscar’s final letter, his tone expresses relief that Oscar was finally able to have sex with Ybón, thus achieving the goal he had always strived for, and getting intimacy, which was better than he ever imagined.
On the drive to the cane field, Oscar has a vision of the Mongoose, the faceless man and his relatives all on a bus, where the Mongoose is driving, the No Face Man is collecting tickets, and his relatives are going to be riding on the bus. This vision is an allegory for how the curse has worked in Oscar’s family. His family is on the bus, the No Face Man, the harbinger of fukú, is collecting their tickets, while the Mongoose, a good omen or a guardian angel, drives the bus. The Mongoose and the No Face Man are paired here for the first time—they are working together to run the bus that contains Oscar’s family. The image presents a puzzling paradox—how can the Mongoose and the No Face Man work together, when their goals have been at odds throughout the novel? This question remains unanswered.
In the beginning of Chapter 7, Oscar looks at all of La Inca’s photographs—perhaps as part of his research to fill the páginas en blanco in the final manuscript that never makes it to Lola. The end of Chapter 7 has Oscar’s name in a paragraph of its own, with an m-dash after it as if there is an unfinished sentence or paragraph, but the rest of the page is blank. The structure here indicates that Oscar’s death left a blank page (or many blank pages), and that his goal of filling the pages has gone unfinished. The theme continues in Yunior’s dreams of Oscar in a mask holding a book with blank pages, which parallels the dream that Oscar had when he was in a coma from his beating. Because Oscar was unable successfully deliver the book that was “the cure to what ails us” he comes to Yunior in a dream to encourage Yunior to write the book. In the dream, Oscar wears a mask, taking the emphasis away from his individual identity. The concealing of his identity is a reference to the epigraphs—Oscar’s life was brief and nameless, but it also was representative in many ways of his Nation. In the dream, sometimes the figure the No Face Man instead of Oscar, indicating that the fukú lives on.
Although the book is ending, Yunior’s narrative gives no definite answers. Questions of whether or not the fukú has been zafa’d still remain. Even Yunior’s relationship with Lola has questions remaining. In a reoccurring dream Yunior has he wakes up before he says the words that could have saved them. He does not write the words out, but instead leaves three blank spaces, leaving the reader to question what could have been said. Questions also remain of how the fukú will remain at bay (if that is the case). Yunior hopes that Isis will someday come to visit him and that he will be able to share the history of her family with her so she can add her insights and become aware of the curse. Nevertheless, this scenario is only Yunior’s desire, not the actuality. The quote in Oscar’s comic reminds Yunior that nothing ever ends. The fact is that there is no such thing as an answer—just a discussion.
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