The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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The Gangster Character Analysis

Beli’s second love and the husband of Trujillo’s sister. He is wealthy due to his services as a hit man for Trujillo, and offers Beli a world of luxury that he really cannot deliver. Though he can be gentle to Beli, his vanity and insecurity prevent him from understanding true love. When Beli gets pregnant, the Gangster leaves her to the punishment of his wife.

The Gangster Quotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao quotes below are all either spoken by The Gangster or refer to The Gangster. 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 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

…you could argue that the Gangster adored our girl and that adoration was one of the greatest gifts anybody had ever given her. It felt unbelievably good to Beli, shook her to her core. (For the first time I actually felt like I owned my skin, like it was me and I was it.)

Related Characters: Yunior (The Narrator) (speaker), Beli (Hypatia Belicia) Cabral (speaker), The Gangster
Related Symbols: Blackness
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Beli’s second great love is the Gangster, a man who commits awful acts for Trujillo, but treats Beli like a princess. The Gangster adores Beli, telling her from their first meeting that Beautiful is her name and worshipping her body when they are intimate. Beli has received plenty of attention for her body, but the Gangster’s complete acceptance of every part of her appearance, including her extremely dark skin and the scar on her back, is a new and welcome experience. Beli’s parenthetical addition to Yunior’s narration makes it clear that she had never felt truly comfortable in her skin before the Gangster, but that his love helped her “own” her skin and thus own her identity as a black woman. Yet though the transformative power of love carries a lot of weight in the book, Beli’s self-acceptance does not last, because it is so dependent on the validation of another person. After the Gangster leaves Beli, she loses confidence in herself and does not celebrate her black skin when her children inherit it.

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All those people have families, you can tell by their faces, they have families that depend on them and that they depend on, and for some of them this is good, and for some of them this is bad. But it all amounts to the same shit because there isn’t one of them who is free. They can’t do what they want to do or be who they should be. I might have no one in the world, but at least I'm free. She had never heard anyone say those words. I’m free wasn’t a popular refrain in the Era of Trujillo.

Related Characters: Yunior (The Narrator) (speaker), The Gangster (speaker), Beli (Hypatia Belicia) Cabral
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

Beli and the Gangster manage to have one perfect week together before it comes out that the Gangster is actually the husband of Trujillo’s sister and Beli suffers horribly for her role in his affair. During that week, the Gangster and Beli speak frankly about their own lives as Dominican citizens during a time when Dominican heritage came with significant limitations. As discussed here (by both the Gangster and Yunior, mingling narration), freedom is a complicated concept in the novel. Free will is severely constrained by the forces of fukú (curse) and zafa (blessing) that determine the destiny of all of the characters in the book. With Trujillo’s possible connection to fukú, every Dominican citizen had even less freedom, as contradicting Trujillo in any way meant facing the worst fukú imaginable.

Yet freedom is even further constrained by the ties of family and community in the novel. Being Dominican and belonging to a Dominican family means conforming to certain social rules, as Beli, and later her daughter Lola, find out when each woman wishes to see more of the world or express an identity that is “unnatural” for a Dominican woman. Ybón, a prostitute that Oscar later falls in love with, has a motto: Travel light. Yunior interprets this to mean that Ybón tries not to get permanently attached to anyone so that she always retains her freedom. As the Gangster says, freedom comes at the cost of having “no one in the world,” a prospect that is often difficult for members of these tight-knit Dominican families.

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The Gangster Character Timeline in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The timeline below shows where the character The Gangster 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)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...She leaves the club in a huff, but thinks about this man, who’s known as The Gangster , all the next week. She ignores La Inca’s anger that she even went to... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
The Gangster We’ve All Been Waiting For. It’s unclear how much Beli knew of the Gangster’s work,... (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
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Once Beli has decided to love the Gangster , she loves as hard as her son (Oscar) will decades later. The Gangster reciprocates... (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Reality continues despite Beli’s romantic fantasy, and soon the Gangster is disappearing suddenly on business, returning late and in a foul mood. Beli hates how... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
A month before everything falls apart, Beli and the Gangster have one last vacation in Samaná. In a footnote, the narrator reveals that the vacation... (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...and future she wants. She tells Dorca, who tells the whole neighborhood. The next time the Gangster is in town, Beli dresses herself up to tell him the news. (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Name Game. That night, in a love motel, Beli and the Gangster argue about the baby’s name. Beli wants to name him Abelard for her father, but... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...Consequences 1. Beli’s pregnancy and the impending fall of the Trujillo regime coincide to destroy the Gangster ’s world. He reveals to Beli that not only is he married, he is actually... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...known as La Fea (the Ugly Woman) was embroiled in as many dubious pursuits as the Gangster , and met him while she was running a brothel. She cheats in all of... (full context)
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
In the Shadow of the Jacaranda. At the order of la Fea, the Gangster ’s wife, two thugs grab Beli as she is walking in the park one day.... (full context)
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Hesitation. After getting home, Beli waits to see the Gangster one last time instead of leaving Santo Domingo for good. That night, a neighbor tells... (full context)
Free Will and Destiny Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
...of language” that she will never speak of. Beli tries to keep up hope that the Gangster will save her, that La Inca will save her, that someone will come, but survives... (full context)
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Story, History, and Writing Theme Icon
...of the Republic. In her final months of recuperation, Beli does little besides long for the Gangster and succumb to the “Darkness” as she prepares to leave Santo Domingo. She has nightmares... (full context)