The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Book 2, Preface Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Book 2 of the novel begins with another preface, returning to Lola’s point of view. At the end of Lola’s year living with La Inca in Santo Domingo, she does not want to return to Paterson, or the United States at all. La Inca and Lola’s mother order her to return anyway, and Lola feels completely betrayed, saying that “I wouldn’t feel that again until I broke with you.” Lola explains that she doesn’t believe in curses, but she thinks that life is hard enough on its own. Disappointed, Lola begins acting out. She quits the track team, ditches school and stops talking to her friend Rocío or her boyfriend Max.
The preface starts ambiguously, only coming into view as Lola’s story once Lola starts talking about her “abuela in Santo Domingo.” This disorienting opening matches Lola’s off-kilter feeling when she is told that she can no longer stay in the DR, the only place that has felt like home. As she addresses “you,” it seems as though this is a letter written to Yunior after he has betrayed her in some way. The novel never reveals the full story of this, however, in keeping with the “blank pages” or gaps in communication that thread through the book. Lola is one of few Dominicans to not believe in supernatural curses, breaking a stereotype, but the novel makes it clear that this does not make her life any less tragic.
Themes
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
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Lola’s depression over going back to the States gets bad enough that she even decides to give in to the sexual advances of the father of one of her classmates. She has sex with him multiple times, then extorts him for two thousand dollars because he is a Dominican politician who can afford to pay Lola, but can’t afford to have this affair come out. Lola feels guilty about making herself into a whore, but she feels no shame for using this man. La Inca and Oscar try to keep Lola in good spirits, but Lola only dreams about using the money from the politician to move to Japan or another beautiful island that is “nothing like Santo Domingo.”
Lola’s affair with her classmate’s father is another example of sexual relationships that have nothing to do with love. Lola realizes this, but still doesn’t quite know why she allows the affair to happen. She asks for money almost as an afterthought, as if to give the sex some purpose that it lacked before. Her desire for escape, like her mother’s, intensifies, until it seems that she would rather be anywhere but the Dominican Republic.
Themes
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Lola’s mother comes to pick her up, and Lola is surprised by how thin and tired her mother looks due to her battle with cancer. Sickness has not softened Lola’s mother at all, though, and she pronounces Lola as ugly as ever, destroying any confidence Lola built in the past year. Lola looks back on that time after she has become a mother herself and realizes that her mother didn’t actually hate her, but that her personality doesn’t allow her to show love for anyone but her son Oscar, whom she cries over relentlessly in the end.
The relationship between Lola and her mother is continually fraught with tension. Now that Lola knows more of Beli’s background (and we have learned how Beli lost her first child), it is easier for her to be sympathetic to the older woman. Yet Lola still wants more from her relationship with her mother and seems committed to righting those wrongs in her relationship with her own daughter. Throughout the novel, family history has repeated multiple times, but Lola finally offers a glimpse of how later generations can break that cycle.
Themes
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
Lola explains that she would have run away again, except that she has learned that running away never ends well. She is later shocked to find out that her ex-boyfriend Max has died. Though they hadn’t spoken since Lola broke up with Max, Lola feels a rush of nostalgia for the uncomplicated love that Max offered. It doesn’t help that Max died because of his job (a job that Lola had found fascinating), as he was crushed between two buses while trying to deliver a film reel to another theater. Lola gives all the money she had gotten from sleeping with the politician to Max’s mother to pay for the funeral.
Lola might think she has learned from her mistake of running away, but she continues to put taking care of others over taking care of herself. Though she and Max were not really that close, Lola feels responsible for taking care of his family after his death just like she feels responsible for taking care of Oscar and Yunior at other points in the novel. Max’s job, which had previously represented Lola’s desire to escape into fantasy, now shows how Lola’s dreams were literally crushed.
Themes
Art, Life, and Latinos in America Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Get the entire Oscar Wao LitChart as a printable PDF.
The brief wondrous life of oscar wao.pdf.medium
Lola cries for Max as she and her mother get on the plane to New York, saying that she continued to atone for Max’s death “until I met you.” Lola expects her mother to be annoyed with her tears, but her mother actually defends her to another woman who tells Lola to be quiet. Another passenger thinks that Lola is crying because she will miss the DR, and tells Lola not to worry because the island will always be there, but Lola’s mother just rolls her eyes.
Though Lola never says why she sent this letter to Yunior (if it is actually a letter to Yunior), it seems as though she is explaining some of the previous romantic experiences that negatively affected their relationship. It also clarifies the de Leóns’ opinion of the Dominican Republic. Whereas many Dominican immigrants, such as the man on the plane, regard the island as an idyllic (or at least nostalgic) paradise, the de León family returns only because it is their homeland.
Themes
Identity and the Dominican Experience in America Theme Icon
Dominican American Culture, Colonialism, and Racism Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon