The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Study Guide

Junot Díaz

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Part 1, Chapter 2 : Wildwood 1982–1985 | Summary



Oscar's sister, Lola, tells her story, beginning with helping her mother find a lump in her mother's breast. Lola has a premonition that this discovery means her life is going to change. Her mother has a mastectomy, and Lola feels herself begin to change too. She becomes a "punk chick," which infuriates her mother, and their fighting increases. Lola feels that her mother treats her like a slave and splits her "dreams straight down the seams." This causes Lola to have low self-worth as a young girl, and for a long time she tries to be the perfect daughter, even after her mother silences her after revealing she was molested by a neighbor. But her mother's cancer sparks her to rebel. She shaves her head, and when her mother tries to force her to wear a wig she burns it, and her mother slaps her. Lola fights back, and things change between them.

One day Lola decides to disappear, running away to live with a boy named Aldo. She soon grows bored and miserable with him and realizes Aldo has the same relationship with his father that she has with her mother. One day a few months later she finally calls home, and Oscar answers. He agrees to meet Lola and bring her some of her clothes and books and money. At the coffee shop Lola realizes that her mother, aunt, and uncle are there, too. Lola and her mother get into an altercation, and her mother falls. Lola starts to run but turns back to look at her mother and sees her crying. She walks over to help her up and realizes that her mother was faking it and is now smiling.

Her mother sends Lola to Santo Domingo, where Lola returns to school and joins the track team, becoming its top runner. She is mostly happy living with her grandmother and making new friends, but soon "the bruja feeling" that tells her everything in her life is about to change reappears. Her grandmother tells her that she herself and Lola's mother also didn't get along when she was Lola's age. She shows Lola a picture of Lola's grandfather, and Lola is once again struck with the feeling that whatever her grandmother is going to say next is going to change her life.


Oscar's sister, Lola, narrates this section, opening with a statement that applies to her whole family: "it's never the changes we want that change everything." Like her mother, Lola deals with feelings of restlessness and rebellion as she grows up. Lola's rebellion against her mother also mirrors in many ways her own mother's teenage rebellion against La Inca. Belicia's breast cancer diagnosis changes everything between Lola and her—rather than sympathize with her, Lola sees it as her opportunity to get away from her mother's iron grip. Their relationship is complicated, with Belicia constantly criticizing and berating Lola. Yet it seems this is the only way Belicia knows how to express her love and concern, which only alienates Lola and pushes her away. A central rift between Lola and her mother is a cultural one. Lola portrays Belicia as a typical Dominican mother, who works hard and is hard on her children in turn. She describes Belicia as "my Old World Dominican mother and I was her only daughter, the one she had raised up herself with the help of nobody, which meant it was her duty to keep me crushed under her heel." It is significant that although Lola and Belicia are so similar, they fail to understand each other, mistaking intensity for hatred.

Lola's style of narration differs from that of Chapter 1's narrator in that she doesn't attempt to guess what other characters are thinking and feeling. Her story emerges as an important parallel to Oscar's, since it gives a viewpoint from inside their family and relays the intimate experience of growing up with their mother and the family curse. Her premonition that their lives are going to change when she finds the lump in her mother's breast continues the motif of their family's curse, and her premonition lends another supernatural element to their story. Through this recurring motif, Díaz comments on the ways in which family members can inherit self-fulfilling beliefs about themselves and their lives, inheriting legacies and stories that came before them and will continue to influence them. Yet Lola isn't aware of the story of her own mother's rebellion, sacrifices, and brushes with the family curse, and therefore she sees her mother as the primary antagonist in her life.

Lola's experience running away to live with her boyfriend, Aldo, illuminates a recurring experience for the de León family—be careful what you wish for. The reality of her experience does not live up to the fantasy in her head, and she finds herself missing Oscar and her mother. The fact that she returns to them despite her headstrong and stubborn ways demonstrates how much she truly cares for them—throughout the novel she will often return from far distances to take care of Oscar. Lola's experience in Santo Domingo brings her full circle in her understanding of her mother and why she has made the choices she's made for her family. Díaz highlights in the exchange between Lola and La Inca how knowledge has ultimate power—even the power to dissolve the curse that hangs over the family.

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