The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, almost every character questions his or her own identity, struggling and experimenting with who they are and who they want to be. The novel also shows how such experimentation is driven and affected not just by internal factors but also by external communities. The characters struggle, in other words, not only with how to become the self they want to be, but also with how to…

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While telling the story of Oscar de León, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao also references many of the books or movies that the characters have read. Díaz responds to these works and explores the influence that artistic works can have on the real world. These fictional connections then point to the ways that people use the frameworks of fantasy and art as tools to understand their own lives.

Genre fiction features prominently…

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao deals with the question of free will, especially as it plays with the Dominican perspective on destiny. In Dominican culture, as portrayed by the novel, humans have very little control over their own lives. Instead, the opposing forces of fukú (curse) and zafa (counter spell) dictate the events in a person’s life. Mankind can only hope to avoid angering fukú, thereby bringing more misfortune, and attempt to lay…

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, as a biography about the fictional Oscar de León, is a novel about history. But instead of giving a straight biography, the novel goes on to challenge preconceived assumptions about what history is and what it can do.

One of the primary projects of the novel is teasing apart story and history. The “official history” of the Dominican Republic reverberates through the lives of the characters…

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While The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a widely applicable coming-of-age story, it is also firmly rooted in a specific Latino experience. The entire novel is steeped in Díaz’s experience of Dominican American culture, from the language that Yunior uses to the cultural traditions, family dynamics, and historical information that Díaz includes in the novel. Díaz starts by educating readers about the Dominican American experience, reaching all the way back into the colonial…

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While the novel follows many threads in Oscar’s life, it is primarily concerned with love in all its varied forms. Like many coming-of-age novels, Oscar’s search for maturity takes the form of a search for romantic love, but the themes of love also go further than that in the novel.

Oscar’s definition of love and his methods of finding it are shaped by the cultural expectations surrounding love and sex in the Dominican environment…

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