A Closer Look at Relationships in:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Ultimately this book is about the “fuku,” the curse or doom that plagues the Wao family. A curse that just uddered allowed could bring the possibility of disaster upon your life. Touching upon the idea of the “supernatural” and it’s hold on all our lives, and its ability to bring about pain and suffering on families. As I continued to read the entwined lives of Oscar, Beli, Yunior, and Lola I became increasingly aware of their unhappy relationships to each other and to people around them. I made my own assumption that the curse is actually their relationships to men, women, and each other. I’ll elaborate below.

It all started with Beli and her life growing up as a young girl with La Inca. She was neglected by the incarceration of her father and the death of her mother. The start of her life wasn’t a happy one. Further on she was raised by La Inca, Beli’s Aunt which is only mentioned briefly. She is addressed as “abuela” by Oscar and Lola. La Inca and Beli do not get along but La Inca is truly a supernatural goodness in this book. She almost magically saves Beli after her brutal beating by the Elvises in the canefields. On page 161 Diaz writes, “At last they had the relationship La Inca had always longed for, except that they didn’t speak.” La Inca had always wanted a strong bond with Beli and had even accepted her as her own daughter. She acts as a savior to the curse in this scene. Beli began her life with abusive and absent parents, her relationship to them disastrous. I think that Beli never truly accepted La Inca as her mother because of her unfaithfulness in mother’s and father’s and the independence that was instilled in her from an early age. I think that the curse begins from Beli’s birth and her relationships furthermore leaving a domino effect to her daughter and son. Beli is always nagging at Oscar and criticizing Lola constantly. Lola especially mentions her resentment towards her mother with good reason most of the time. On page 208 Beli is picking up Lola from La Inca’s home. “And then the big moment, the one every daughter dreads–My mother looking me over. I’d never been in better shape, never felt more beautiful and desirable in my life, and what does the bitch say?

“Cono, pero tu si eres fea. Those fourteen months—gone. Like they’d never happened.” Cono, pero tu si eres fea literally translates to “Damn, but you’re ugly.” That’s a horrible thing to hear from your mother, especially on account of not seeing her for months. It’s no wonder that Lola hates Beli. Lola even says she would have ran away “disappeared like everything disappears.” She would have left just like her father left her mother too. But then her ex-boyfriend Max died, a boy that loved her so much but that she left and cheated on soon. An effect of the curse? I think so. Lola made a big mistake in letting him go, only to end up losing him forever.  Yet, Lola is one character that truly believes the curse is just life. She doesn’t realize it’s her own actions creating the curse.

And Oscar, his life is ashamed of his body and therefore affected by the women in his life. He sends himself through loops and determination when girls are involved, working out and writing more. His friendship with Jenni is very important to him. To the dismay of Junior who couldn’t believe what Oscar was doing to get her attention. “How can you be in love? You just met the bitch,” Junior says to him. After he found her with another boy Oscar was devastated. He stopped writing, he stopped playing video games, it’s like he gave up on the fantastical elements of his life. The possibility of having her was gone and so his writing and video games became lifeless. Just a game.

Oscar takes a drunken trip to the New Brunswick train station. “Reviewing his miserable life,” he regretted not getting  Jenni, all the books he’d never finish, his body. But then he sees something magical (what he’d always waited for) which he calls the Golden Mongoose. The vision that he sees could have been the end to the curse. But then again maybe it saved him. Saved him by an error in his judgement and instead he fell into a garden divider, not the concrete. With two broken legs and a separated shoulder he had survived. The mongoose represents a fantastic force of good. The exact opposite of Trujillo. Possibly the very same mongoose that saves Beli from the canefields, telling her to pick herself up. “So as Beli was flitting in and out of life, there appeared at her side a creature that would have been an amiable mongoose if not for its golden lion eyes and the absolute black of its pelt.” It told her to rise, a vision, even telling her she will have two children in the future. It wouldn’t be the first time saving Oscar’s life either. I wondered why this furry devil of a creature played such an important role in his book. I mean, I think of mongooses as a terrible chicken killer myself. Due to how many baby chicks and geese I’ve lost to forgetting to shut the chicken coop door at night. But, here the mongoose is a savior, a real supernatural phenomenon.

This story is filled with fantastical elements and true villains. I think that the curse begins with Beli and her relationship to her mother and father, leading to a tumultuous relationship to her daughter and son and vice versa, and further their relationships with men and women. I truly loved this book for its wit and pain and its ability to surpass that into a greater meaning of life and destiny. The curse is not bad things that happen in the Wao’s lives, it is the relationships that they destroy and ultimately lose.