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Published: 13-10-2019

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The role of gender in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

In numerous cultures, which includes Dominican culture, rigid and binary gender roles have shaped and reinforced the development of a largely patriarchal society. Certainly, Junot Diaz’s The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents the classic gender expectations of males and females in the Dominican Republic. But the novel also provides a pointed commentary on the methods in which the main characters, the members of the De León household, subvert these roles.

A key element of Diaz’s novel is the Fukú americanus, also identified simply as “fukú” or the “curse or doom of some kind” that plagues the title character Oscar and his household, as properly as their whole culture (Diaz 1). Even though the fukú remains a mystery to the characters within the novel, its effects on the De León family members indicate that the “curse” can be deemed the patriarchal oppression that is ingrained in both the political technique of the nation, as nicely as its historical and cultural atmosphere. By undermining the gender norms of their male-dominated society, Oscar and his loved ones members act as the “zafa” or “counterspell” to the fukú curse that is the central influence on the family’s story (Diaz 7). All through the novel, Diaz uses historical data alongside the narrative, as effectively as the inclusion of some crucial minor characters, to demonstrate the deep-rooted patriarchal structure evident in Dominican culture.

In the preface, the narrator introduces the notion of the fukú as “the Curse and the Doom of the New World” and the “fukú of the Admiral,” which establishes the notion that “the arrival of the Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world” (Diaz 1). Diaz attributes this curse, in part, to the colonization of the Dominican Republic, hence introducing the concept of patriarchy and its institution in the nation. Colonialism and patriarchy are linked by the idea that “women and land are each signifies of reproduction,” which means that without having the potential to dominate the land and the females, men discover it not possible to assistance the “existence of a people” (McAlpine 1). The colonization stage of the Dominican Republic acts as a sort of patriarchy, exactly where the central aim is each “conquest and handle,” just as patriarchal systems in society dominate and therefore oppress women (Loomba 1101).

In Oscar Wao, Diaz links collectively his fictional narrative with historical and factual particulars of the Dominican encounter below dictator Rafael Trujillo, whose reign is a continuation of the exact same type of domination and manage that originated with the Dominican Republic’s colonization. Many of the footnotes chronicle the history of the Trujillo regime Oscar’s personal grandfather Abelard is tortured right after refusing to permit El Jefe to have his “delicious” daughter (Diaz 218). Trujillo is described by the narrator as getting “five thousand instances worse” than the “average Dominican,” due to his objectification of ladies, specially as communicated to the guys he has hired to “scour the provinces for his subsequent piece of ass” (Diaz 217). As a outcome of Abelard’s refusal to give up his daughter, he is tortured and imprisoned, a method that the narrator calls, “outstanding karmic debt, or one thing else. (Fukú?)” (Diaz 248). The nation’s and a lot more especially the De León family’s oppression and misfortune under the masculine-led society headed by Trujillo assistance the concept that the fukú is a manifestation of the culture’s patriarchal ideology. Trujillo’s position as a cruel, ruthless dictator, as properly as his exploits with girls, aids him serve as an archetype for many of the other Dominican guys in the novel, and also introduces the requirements of masculinity for males in Dominican society. Each Beli, Oscar’s mother, and Oscar himself encounter Dominican guys who take benefit of females and exert a energy and handle, comparable to Trujillo’s, that straight aligns with the classic male gender role.

Primarily based on the nation’s history of colonization and dictatorship, the Dominican excellent of “machismo” or hyper-masculinity coincides with the “contention that sex, gender, and heterosexuality are historical products” (Caamaño 1, Butler 905). Even the novel’s narrator Yunior describes himself as “a guy who could bench 340 pounds” and who has several girls in his life at after (Diaz 170). Similarly, Beli’s very first really like, Jack Pujols, is described as possessing “physical swagger” but has no respect for her and makes use of her only for her physique (Diaz 89). Her next really like, The Gangster, has a ”pimpdaddy style” and enables a pregnant Beli to be beaten by his wife (Diaz 121). The males in the novel are physically attractive and potent, but are also cowardly, disrespectful, and abusive towards the females around them. Oscar encounters this conventional gender norm in the boyfriends of the ladies he falls for, especially Ana and Ybón. Each Ana and Ybón are physically abused and mistreated by their boyfriends, but nevertheless pick to keep with them. This choice only further exposes and affirms the accomplishment that comes with adhering to the existing gender roles laid out for Dominican guys.

Throughout adolescence, Oscar is consistently reminded of the gender expectations he is anticipated to fulfill, but his lack of conformity to standard ideals of masculinity establishes him as a sort of “zafa” to the fukú curse. Even from a young age, Oscar knows that he is not what a Dominican male is supposed to be, as he has “none of the Larger Powers of your common Dominican male, couldn’t have pulled a girl if his life depended on it…couldn’t play sports for shit” and is “beyond uncoordinated” (Diaz 19). The other males in his life, who do reside up to these ideals, his uncle and Yunior, reinforce the significance of “gender essentialism” and the danger of ‘performing one’s gender wrong,” via their efforts to get Oscar to change his methods by losing weight and giving up his passion for science-fiction (Butler 909). Yet another way in which Oscar subverts his male expectation is by way of his interactions with females. Rather than being dominant or abusive, he rather spends time talking and gaining “some knowledge of self and of ladies,” rather than looking for out the purely sexual gratification that standard Dominican men are after (Diaz 41). By going against the gender norms of society, Oscar feels the disastrous effects of the fukú curse strongly throughout most of the novel, specially in his failed attempts at relationships. However, in his connection with Ybón, he is lastly in a position to appreciate the “little intimacies” of requited enjoy, therefore becoming a zafa by remaining true to the honest, respectful enjoy he values most (Diaz 334).

Similarly, Lola De León, Oscar’s sister, also subverts her anticipated feminine gender role in many ways all through the narrative. Early on, the reader learns that Lola is very athletic and powerful, and she starts to dress in all black and even “shave[s] her head down to the bone, Sinéad-style” and convinces everybody that she’s “turned into a lesbiana” (Diaz 37). By straying drastically from the variety of physical femininity that Dominican culture and especially her mother value, Lola reinforces the notion that “sexuality and gender…do not align with easy polarities” (Rivkin and Ryan 887). Lola also avoids falling into one of the two binary female character sorts in literature: “the extreme pictures of ‘angel’ and ‘monster’” (Gilbert and Gubar 812). She is independent and goes out on her personal, rather than becoming a subservient “angel,” but also overcomes the “monster” image via her genuine care for her brother Oscar. She is headstrong and stubborn in her connection with Yunior, which she “put an finish to,” rather than letting herself be entirely controlled by a man (Diaz 169). Regardless of difficult the feminine best of her culture, Lola does struggle with the curse of the fukú in her couple of destructive relationships. Even so by the novel’s finish, she, like Oscar, is capable to turn out to be portion of the zafa and uncover happiness and adore with a family members of her own.

In The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, author Junot Diaz supplies a commentary on the social atmosphere of the Dominican culture in relation to a set of pre-established gender roles. Title character Oscar Wao and his sister Lola every break with the rigid preset masculine and feminine ideals, respectively, that have defined and shaped their culture for generations. In addition to the stress of adhering to gender norms, the De Leóns, and numerous other Dominican households, feel the adverse influence of a curse, the Fukú americanus, which originated with the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New Globe and continued with the repressive and tyrannical rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Due to the fact Lola and Oscar deviate from what is traditionally expected of young female and male Dominicans, they have effectively brought the wrath of the fukú down upon them with special intensity. Nevertheless, the redeeming components at the end of the novel, especially Oscar’s final intimate experience with Ybón and Lola’s fulfilling relationship with her husband, demonstrate that by challenging the expectations of their genders, each Oscar and Lola turn into the ultimate counter-spell, the zafa.

Functions Cited

Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 900-911. Print. Caamaño, Ana Chavier. “Gender Roles in the Dominican Republic.” Moon Travel Guides. N.p., 03 Jan. 2010. Internet. 11 Dec. 2015 Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead, 2007. Print. Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 812-825. Print. Loomba, Ania. “Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Research.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 1100-1111. Print. McAlpine, Mhairi. “Patriarchy and Colonialism: Generating the Hyperlinks.” Second Council Property of Virgo. N.p., eight Apr. 2012. Internet. 10 Dec. 2015. Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. “Introduction: Contingencies of Gender.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 885-888. Print.
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