The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Oscar’s grandfather, and the reason that the Cabral line is cursed, Abelard was a doctor and a scholar during the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. He was too cowardly to protest Trujillo’s dictatorship, but brave enough not to let Trujillo take his oldest daughter Jacquelyn. Either this affront to Trujillo’s pride, or a secret book about the evil supernatural roots of Trujillo’s rise to power, brought Abelard to the attention of the Trujillato and led to his imprisonment and death. He was never able to meet his third daughter, Beli, but Abelard’s legacy lives on in Oscar and his interest in writing.

Abelard Cabral Quotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao quotes below are all either spoken by Abelard Cabral or refer to Abelard Cabral. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao published in 2008.
Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

The only answer I can give you is the least satisfying: you'll have to decide for yourself. What's certain is that nothing’s certain. We are trawling in silences here.

Related Characters: Yunior (The Narrator) (speaker), Abelard Cabral
Related Symbols: Páginas en blanco (Blank pages)
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

When Yunior tries to find out why Abelard was arrested by Trujillo, several rumors crop up to explain why Abelard drew Trujillo’s anger. Many people believed that he “slandered” Trujillo by making a joke about Trujillo hiding bodies in the back of his car. Others believed that Abelard refused to let Trujillo have his daughter. Still others think that he wrote a book that exposed Trujillo’s cursed rise to power. Yunior himself seems to lean more towards the book explanation, but he clearly places the responsibility on the reader to choose which explanation makes the most sense. Due to Trujillo’s “Páginas en blanco (blank pages),” no official reason was ever recorded for Abelard’s arrest. As official truth in the DR depended on Trujillo’s feelings that day, there is no way to tell what actually happened unless one is a first-hand witness, and even then memory and trauma can affect one’s version of past events.

Yunior compares this lack of knowledge to “trawling in silences,” a metaphor that suggests fishing in a deep ocean with no way of seeing what is caught in the net. Many Dominicans stay silent, refusing to speak of what they saw in the Trujillo years out of discomfort or fear that they too will be incriminated. In trying to put together a history of the DR during this time period, Yunior must simply cast his net and see what stories come up.

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Abelard Cabral Character Timeline in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The timeline below shows where the character Abelard Cabral appears in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 3: The Three Heartbreaks of Belicia Cabral (1955-1962)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
...motel, Beli and the Gangster argue about the baby’s name. Beli wants to name him Abelard for her father, but the Gangster wants to name him Manuel for his father. Beli... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...hates the idea of Beli in a cold, foreign city like New York, and, like Abelard before her, cannot bring herself to send her child away. When the thugs come back,... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5: Poor Abelard (1944-1946)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
...yet another possible start to the sad tale of Oscar Wao with Oscar’s maternal grandfather Abelard Cabral. A footnote explains that this is the beginning that the de Leóns always use... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Abelard was a surgeon and his family was very well-to-do, living in a mansion called Casa... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Abelard’s reputation as a scholar, and his interests in studying languages, rare books, and inventions, mark... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Unfortunately for Abelard, his oldest daughter Jacquelyn blossoms into a beauty who might dangerously capture Trujillo’s attention. According... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Abelard shares his worries for their daughter with three people. First, he tells his wife, Socorro,... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
A year passes, and Abelard attends another event in honor of the president. Trujillo stops him, joking that he might... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
And So? For three months, Abelard waits for Trujillo to ask about his family again. The worry affects his health, his... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...the intense fear that Trujillo inspired, Yunior reminds us that there were people who resisted. Abelard, however, has no designs for revolution and simply wants to tend his patients and care... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
The Bad Thing. In 1945, everything seems to be going well for Abelard. His daughter Jacquelyn is set to leave for a boarding school in Le Havre, France,... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Abelard starts drinking to cope with the stress of Trujillo’s invitation. Yunior speculates that other Latin... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Two days before Trujillo’s party, Lydia tries to convince Abelard to leave with her for Cuba, but he refuses to leave his family. The night... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Chiste Apocalyptus (Apocalyptic Gossip). A month after the party, the Secret Police arrest Abelard for slander. The story is that Abelard had drinks with some friends a few days... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
...to say that he thinks this story is completely false, but that it still cost Abelard his life. (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
The Fall. Abelard spends the night after the (supposed) trunk incident with Lydia, comforting her after she mistakenly... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Abelard in Chains. The Secret Police arrest Abelard, refusing to even let him leave a note... (full context)
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
The Secret Police take Abelard to the Forteleza San Luis, a notorious prison in Trujillo’s regime. The officers take all... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
A week later, Socorro finally finds out where Abelard is being held and receives permission to see him. She waits in a latrine room,... (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Many people speculate whether Abelard actually said anything treasonous about Trujillo. La Inca insists that Abelard did nothing wrong, and... (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
The last possible reason for Abelard’s curse alleges that he wrote a book exposing the supernatural roots of Trujillo’s rise to... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
The Sentence. No matter why Abelard was sent to prison, he was sentenced to 18 years in February 1946. All of... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Fallout. The first sign of the curse was the birth of Abelard’s third daughter, who was born with pitch-black skin. Socorro committed suicide two months after Beli... (full context)