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However, this may not have been Diaz's intention at all. He may have simply been trying to emphasize the third person viewpoint and that the reader is merely witnessing the events. This opening statement requires the reader to place themselves in a position somewhere, hovering above the lives of the characters, viewing them from an unattached vantage point. This is much the way in which one views an ant hill. We look at the ant hill and see it as a whole. We may see individual ants going from here to there. We have no idea what is going on in the heads of the individual ants. We do not know where they intend to go, but we see them scurrying about on the way to something that is apparently important to them. At that point, we can either choose to focus in one a single ant and follow its path, or we can pan out and let it disappear into the social Hodge podgy. However, we typically would not make a judgment and call the ant hill communistic or a dictatorship.
Diaz, as Zuarino claims, may have been trying to make a statement about American society. He may have also used this perspective as a way to adjust the focus and perspective of the reader. Viewing the characters as a part of the whole of society gives the reader a macro perspective. Then the reader's mind must do something like a zoom-in and focus on the individual lives of the characters. This opening statement may have been more of a literary technique, similar to zooming in the camera, than a political statement. The focus of the novel was on Dominican culture, not on American culture, further supporting the idea of the Galactus focus as a literary, rather than a political statement.
Diaz uses his memories of Dominican culture and the Dominican landscape as a stage upon which to place his main character. One of the key strengths of Diaz's writing is that he creatively forces the reader to construct a clear picture of the setting and the characters in their mind. He does not use heavy description of the places and scenes, but rather uses psychodrama to let the reader see and feel the essence of the setting. For instance, we learn that the character, Olga has a special odor about her. In that description, the place becomes real to the reader. Smell is a strong sensory sensation. Diaz artfully triggers all of the reader's senses, even their sense of morality and ethics, in many cases. This makes the place, and subsequently the characters more real. The Galactus technique is just another example of this type of scenario building by Diaz.
Diaz uses humor that others could never get away with. He pokes fun at Dominican culture in a way that would mean certain doom and ostracism for any other author. Diaz is Dominican himself, which gives him a free license to poke fun at his own culture. One of the points that Diaz makes is that ebony skin occasionally appears in the de Leon bloodlines. A black complexion is a point of anxiety in that culture and is considered to be an ill omen (Asim, p. 2).
One of Diaz's characters states,
"That's white people for you. They lose a cat and it's an all-points bulletin, but we
Dominicans, we lose a daughter and we might not even cancel our appointment at the salon" (in Asim, p. 2).
This statement would get any other author sued for racism, but as Asim points out, membership in a culture equals a license to poke fun at it. Comments such as these are dispersed throughout the novel, giving the tragedy a dose of comic relief. However, they also give the novel a dose of reality as well. The reader begins to feel the oppression of the culture through the character's need to laugh, lest they cry. Racial slurs and comments throughout Diaz's novel are a type of dark humor, unique to Diaz's style.
The horrific story of Oscar's journey to America through the series of tragic events and the deed of his grandmother are juxtaposed against the modern struggles of Dominican families. Oscar has many stereotypical cultural features, such as being abandoned by his real father. Lola is a typical Dominican girl. However, this is offset by Oscar's unlikely nerdiness that in no manner resembles the macho image of a Dominican boy. Diaz uses these comparisons and contrasts to bring out the various attributes of Dominican culture that he wishes to portray. These stereotypes would have been taboo for any author outside of the culture.
Diaz cleverly uses Oscar's grandmother being beaten and left in the cane field, resulting in the family's move to America to foreshadow Oscar's death in the end. However, behind every glimpse into the actions in the story lurks a deeper insight into what it feels like to be a Dominican in America. Diaz's first hand experience is his key asset in this perspective. There are many third person accounts of historical accounts of conquest of Hispaniola and the eventual Diaspora. Diaz continues the saga, perhaps without ever realizing it.
The stereotypes portrayed in the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao do more than provide the background for the story and set the scene. They give the reader a sense of what is feels like to be Dominican after the Diaspora. Like many displaced Latinos, Oscar makes a pilgrimage to his homeland. The manner in which Diaz intertwines the supernatural elements of the story with the reality also provides insight into Dominican thoughts and beliefs. Only Diaz does it in a way the transforms the thought patterns of the reader to match those of the characters. For this reason, the thesis holds true, and Diaz's work can be considered a modern history of the struggles of the Dominican people and their struggles in America. The most important contribution of this novel is that it ties the events of the past, with the impact on the lives of those living in their shadow today.
Asim, Jaban. it's a Wonderful Life. 30 September 2007. Washington Post. 1 October 2008.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, First edition, New York: Riverhead. 2007.
Kachka, Boris. Junot Diaz Karate-Chops His Writer's Block. 24 August 2007. New York
Guides. 1 October 2008.
Zuarino, John. An Interview with Junot Diaz. September 2007. Bookslut. 1 October 2008.
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