Oscar Wao. Colonialism and Magical Realism
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a 2007 fiction novel by Junot Diaz that tells the story of one Oscar De Leon. It describes De Leon’s as a sweet and disastrously overweight person and his life forms the larger part of the story. It is through De Leon’s life that the concept of magical realism unravels. The author uses his life, the family beliefs and legacy to show the influence of magic in the daily encounters. Magical realism encompasses literary and visual genre that evokes magical elements to real-world scenarios to expose the real and inner meanings intended by an author. Diaz uses his novel to highlight various instances of magical realism including the belief in the family curse fuku, zafa, and the magical Mongoose to show the extent of magic realism and its interconnection with colonialism.
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Colonialism, according to the author, stands for exploitation and the powers that prevent a person from succeeding. The novel explores the expiration of the De Leon family by the dictator Rafael Trujillo. His influence in their lives has brought nothing but misery and pain. Thus, to expose this status, the author uses instances of magical realism to make it effective and authentic. The family that resides in New Jersey becomes the center of backlash and torment after they decide to go against the ruler. Ideally, the novel speaks on the political oppression that De Leon face in the hands of Trujillo. It is evident that the dictator uses his illegal powers to exert authority over his people. However, when the De Leons resist, the outcome is suffering and political torture. Despite the situation, the author hides the open political dictatorship in magical realism to show the dictator as the supernatural power that torments the people. His authority and dictatorship are likened to a curse that makes every pursuit of the De Leon a distant impossibility. All the effects remain vivid through the life of Oscar, a lovesick Dominican, who lives with his old-world mother and sister. They believe in the curse that has derailed their family success since time immemorial. The curse is known as the fuku, which for generations, has held the family captive. Ideally, the introduction to the novel exposes the effects that the fuku exploitation had on the dreams and aspirations of the De Leon family. For instance, unlike the boys of his age, Oscar is depicted as determined to find love, kiss girls and break the curse that makes him unable to be happy. This behavior reveals the extent of such colonialism. The author asserts that it makes individuals hopeless, but with the constant pursuit of alternatives and ways to deal with various problems, they can survive the ordeal.
Moreover, magic is not a new thing to the Dominicans. They regard it as a string that touches on generations after generations. Thus, using magical realism, the author shows that the De Leon family has become doomed to endless suffering, from torture, tragic accidents and ill-starred love. The tragedy is almost likened to a prison one that has shattered the lives of the past generations and now Oscar. The family curse begins with Abelard who the author reports as once a successful surgeon with three daughters. Trujillo was a scrupulous man who often demanded sexual favors from any woman of his desire. Upon his admiration for the surgeon’s elder daughter, his refusal made him serve painful jail terms. Therefore, the family of the Abelard was mysteriously killed. This scenario, according to the Dominicans, is a curse placed on them by the mysterious and super powerful dictator. The colonialism becomes evident since the dictator seeks to use his subjects for his selfish ambitions. Refusal warrants suffering but worst of all death that has cleared the lineage of the Abelard.
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The novel also begins by narrating the sad tale of the life and struggles of Oscar and his family. The author reveals his life as one with deep desires and dreams of becoming a great leader but most importantly to meet the woman of his dreams and fall in love. The famously hallowed” family curse and the painful story of generations held by the cures become the center of the novel. The author uses these characters to advance the belief that the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was the source of their trials even after moving into New Jersey. The novel contains instances of assimilation into the American pop culture and the dictatorship as some of the ways to depict the effects of the colonialism in the book. Additionally, Diaz shows the struggles of the family members to come to terms with the curse and the horrendous ordeals they have to endure in the United States even after running away from the Dominican Republic. At this point, the author reveals the fuko, a curse that haunts his family. It is evident that Diaz starts his narration by exposing the effect of magic as a deterrent to the dreams and prospect of Oscar and his family. The novel opens a story with the symbolic political and social prison in which the De Leon family finds themselves entangled. Therefore, the curse exposes the unyielding determination of a man to persevere in the face of affliction while hoping that things will become right.
Furthermore, according to Gale, the magical encounters that the author uses in his novel seek to make it authentic while maintaining the message and the ideological feelings of the richness of culture. Diaz views the exotic Dominican culture from a distant angle in a bid to exploit the theme of colonialism. By immersing the audience in the tumultuous life of the protagonist, Oscar, the author creates an aesthetic angle that allows the audience to see instances of magic imbued into real-life scenarios. For example, the zafa just like the fuku is deemed as a magical karma that seeks to induce punitive actions and curse on the De Leon family. Like magical realism, the effects of colonialism become more apparent. However, the author views various scenarios with a sense of genuine warmth and dazzling energy to maintain the reality of the oppression of the De Leon family. The humorous insight that is sometimes given to various magical laces helps to expose the effects of colonialism. For example, the golden Mongoose is one instance of magic that is used to show the endless pain the family experiences. Although it acts as a savior in times of need, the magical Mongoose depicts various aspects of life. First, they see the Mongoose as the family guardian, one that watches over to ensure safety. Although it is both fantasy and hope, it points to the reality of having to live a curse. The fact that the family believes in the Dominican powers and magic shows that there is the need among the people to exert their powers against those that derail them. The captivity that it depicts is one of torment and constant fear. Hence, the situation likens it to the horrendous rule of the dictator Rafael Trujillo.
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According to Erik Camayd-Freixas, magical realism is used to explain varied concepts of life mingled with reality. Its application makes literature interesting, and Diaz uses it to expand the theoretical problems of the De Leon family. The Mongoose also represents displacement. Displacement, according to the book, was forced into the Dominican Republic from outside just like Oscar and his family were compelled into the United States. This aspect exposes the political facet of colonialism. Rafael Trujillo is shown as a dictator, one who exploits his people for his own personal gain. Ideally, the novel speaks of the politics that connects to magic. For instance, anyone who goes against Trujillo faces the consequences just like the one who the fuku or the zafa curses. Additionally, colonialism leads to displacement, and it makes people to run away and find solace in places where their identities do not fit completely. The pursuit of dreams becomes a dwindling impossibility and it takes magic for one to survive the harshness that comes with the political wilderness. For example, when Beli encounters the golden lion, her safety becomes a guarantee; the lion talks to her and leads her to the cane fields. The author thus uses magical realism to show that without magic, the effects of colonialism on the De Leon family would have been fatal. The lion acts as the shield against the evil that befalls them. The Mongoose also represents rebellion and its consequences. When the De Leon family undermines the rulership of Trujillo, they become the outskirts with a curse on their generations. Although it is fiction, the author uses it to show that colonialism has far-reaching consequences for the families and individuals that go against the coin.
The notion of magic that the author uses also makes the scenes convincing due to the primitive belief in the supernatural as the Dominicans hold. The creation of objects and images in the minds of people makes magic alive and functional. Thus, it is the reason the author uses it to show the effects that colonialism had on the family of the De Leon. The concept of spiritualism and the occurrence of things that bring hope like the lion and the mongoose only help to assert the reality that humans find themselves in especially during problems. The author shows that the De Leon family struggles are as a result of their rebellious actions against Trujillo. By showing the reality of their suffering, Oscar’s inability to find a soulmate and to meet his dreams point that the consequences are seriously weighing on the genealogy. Like the other curses, the author reveals Trujillo’s supernatural powers in a rather unusual manner. In fact, having lived in the Dominican Republic, the author is aware of the effects that the dictatorship has on the people. The novel shows the dark story of Oscar and his family by revealing the just side of their actions against the exploitative rule. However, without magic realism, it would not have been easy to show the effects that it had on their lives.
Therefore, the magic realism serves the sole purpose of enabling the juxtaposition of powers unnatural as working against the wicked plans to help the just. By using the mystery of humanity within reality, the author references the genre by combining fantasy and sci-fi to explain the effects of colonialism. The sad part of the novel exposes the fatal effect of colonialism. It reveals that even though Oscar finally overcomes his curse and finds love, happiness is still a distant impossible. His unattractiveness earns him a prostitute who is also entangled with a police officer. However, the author shows that Oscar’s determination to fight for his true love leads him to an early grave. In an attempt to keep him from his lover, the police captain orders for his death. This ultimate curse befalls the family because Oscar was the only hope to find answers and a possible remedy to their predicament.
In conclusion, the brief and wondrous life of Oscar Wao details his struggles and that of his family in dealing with the aftermath of their rebellion and displacement from the Dominican Republic into the United States. Junot Diaz uses magical realism to explain in details the predicaments of the De Leon’s family with particular emphasis on Oscar. The fantastical events that are created in the real world setting of political oppression help to reveal the author’s concept of colonialism. In what seems vivid, the novel uses magic and fiction to explain the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and the consequences on those who went against him. Also, using impressive yet dark and sad narration, Diaz shows that the effects are dire with some like Oscar finally losing their lives in the process. The dreams of most of the family members remain thwarted either directly or indirectly by the rebellion of the dictatorial rule. The magical instances in the novel contribute to creating authentic and compelling effects of the curse that befalls the family. The fuku and zafa become just the avenues through which the author advances his themes. Overall, magical realism served its purpose o revealing the effects that colonialism had on the De Leon’s family.
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