Blank pages recur throughout the novel, sometimes as pieces of paper that are literally blank, and sometimes as writing that has been lost or erased. While “páginas en blanco” is literally the name that Trujillo used for his ban on records during his regime, these “pages” also symbolize the many gaps of information or communication that the characters face. All of the second-generation Dominican American characters struggle to find out their family history, as their parents will not speak very much about their old lives in the Dominican Republic. Characters like Beli, for example, have blank pages for themselves when they refuse to speak or think about periods of their own lives. Abelard’s books are also turned into blank pages when Trujillo destroys everything Abelard ever wrote, leaving Beli clueless about her own heritage. At first, these blank pages represent the control that Trujillo had over the lives of the Dominican people, as he is able to dictate not only the government, but even how that government is spoken and written about.
However, the blank pages take on a new meaning as Oscar gains confidence as a writer. Throughout the novel, Oscar creates new worlds out of blank pages, showing the creative space and potential of a blank page. This culminates in the lost letter that Oscar sent back from the DR; though Oscar said that the letter would illuminate everything he learned about life, Yunior never receives the message. Yunior then has to piece together Oscar’s lessons for himself, coming to a more satisfying answer. Similarly, the inspiring words that the Mongoose speaks to Oscar and Beli to convince them to survive are rendered literally as blank lines in the text. Here, blank pages symbolize limitless possibility. Each character, and even the reader, then has the freedom (and the responsibility) to decide what should go on those pages. Throughout the novel, blank pages are a reminder that someone has to control your story – it could be someone else with a malicious agenda, or it could be you.
Páginas en blanco (Blank pages) Quotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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.
In fact, I believe that, barring a couple of key moments, Beli never thought about that life again. Embraced the amnesia that was so common throughout the Islands, five parts denial, five parts negative hallucination. Embraced the power of the Untilles. And from it forged herself anew.