The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Gender in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao College

In many cultures, including Dominican culture, rigid and binary gender roles have shaped and reinforced the development of a mostly patriarchal society. Indeed, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents the traditional gender expectations of males and females in the Dominican Republic. Yet the novel also offers a pointed commentary on the ways in which the main characters, the members of the De León family, subvert these roles.

A major element of Diaz’s novel is the Fukú americanus, also known simply as “fukú” or the “curse or doom of some kind” that plagues the title character Oscar and his family, as well as their entire culture (Diaz 1). Although the fukú remains a mystery to the characters within the novel, its effects on the De León family indicate that the “curse” can be considered the patriarchal oppression that is ingrained in both the political system of the nation, as well as its historical and cultural atmosphere. By undermining the gender norms of their male-dominated society, Oscar and his family members act as the “zafa” or “counterspell” to the fukú curse that is the central influence on the family’s story (Diaz 7). Throughout the novel, Diaz uses historical information alongside the narrative,...

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