The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Study Guide

Junot Díaz

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 May 2017. Web. 18 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, May 25). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Study Guide." May 25, 2017. Accessed November 18, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Study Guide," May 25, 2017, accessed November 18, 2018,

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Prologue and Part 1

The novel begins with a description of the Dominican concept of fukú, or curse. In Dominican culture curses are embedded within politics, history, and families, and the curse within the family depicted in the novel begins in the era of the Trujillo dictatorship. The character of Oscar is introduced. It is on his life that the story of the family's curse centers. The narrator also mentions that there is such a thing as a zafa, or counterspell, which his book might be.

Oscar is depicted as the antihero of the novel, since he is shy, overweight, and has a hard time fitting in due to his love for science fiction and fantasy. His demeanor runs counter to the typical stereotype of Dominican masculinity, and consequently he has a hard time getting girls to like him. Oscar's sister, Lola, constantly tries to help him improve himself, but he gives up easily. Oscar falls in love with a girl named Ana, but his feelings for her are unrequited, and he learns she has a boyfriend. Oscar begins to behave obsessively and erratically, standing outside her boyfriend's building with a gun. Eventually he heads off to college at Rutgers University, only to realize he doesn't fit in there either.

Oscar's sister takes over as the narrator, describing how she was the one who found a lump in their mother Belicia's breast, which led to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Rather than bring them closer together, the diagnosis causes Lola to rebel against her mother, who is abusive and stern. She decides to run away from home to live with her boyfriend, Aldo, but soon grows bored and miserable. Oscar agrees to drop off some of her things but doesn't tell her he is bringing their mother, who promptly sends her to Santo Domingo to stay with her great aunt, La Inca. Lola is mostly happy there, and La Inca finally reveals Lola's mother's backstory to her, which helps Lola understand her better.

The story of Belicia highlights their similarities. She is just as rebellious as Lola, and just as stubborn as Oscar in love. La Inca, who is actually her aunt, raises Belicia after she was given away as a baby by her parents when tragedy befell them. Belicia is sent to one of the best schools in Baní, where she is constantly ridiculed for her darker skin and lower class. She meets her first love, Jack Pujols, and they are caught together in a closet at school, embarrassing his family because he is engaged to another girl. Belicia is expelled, and rather than go to another school she gets a job waitressing. One night she goes to a nightclub where she meets a man called the Gangster, who is secretly involved in the Trujillo regime. Belicia falls in love with him, and soon they conceive a child. The Gangster neglects to tell Belicia he is married—to Trujillo's sister, who discovers their affair and sends two henchmen to abduct Belicia and force her to have an abortion. Belicia's boss from the restaurant sees the abduction and rescues her. Belicia returns home, but the two men find her and take her away in their car to a cane field, where they beat her and leave her for dead. Belicia sees a vision of a golden mongoose who tells her to get up or she will never meet her future son and daughter—and that she has lost her baby. She finds her way out of the cane field and is rescued by a passing car.

Meanwhile, the dictator Trujillo is assassinated, and La Inca decides to send Belicia to the United States for her own safety. On the plane leaving the Dominican Republic, Belicia sits next to the man who will become the father of Oscar and Lola. The narrator, Yunior, begins to tell his own story of how he is connected to the family, through his courtship of Lola. He agrees to room with Oscar at college and tries to help him improve his life to no avail. Yet Yunior grows envious when Oscar befriends one of his crushes, Jenni Muñoz. Jenni eventually breaks Oscar's heart, which causes him to act irrationally again. He attempts to jump off a bridge and also sees the vision of the golden mongoose.

Part 2

Lola returns to narrate her story, beginning after her return to Paterson from Santo Domingo. Yunior then tells the story of Lola and Oscar's grandfather, Abelard. Abelard is a well-to-do professor and a loyal citizen under the Trujillo regime. When his daughter Jacqueline grows up to be beautiful, he stops taking her to Trujillo's political parties, knowing that Trujillo has a taste for young, beautiful girls. Eventually, Trujillo insists that Abelard bring his wife and daughters to his next party, but Abelard decides against it at the last minute. A month later, he is arrested for slander and taken by the Secret Police and tortured. Abelard's family later believes that their curse began when he didn't take Jacqueline to Trujillo's party, causing them generations of bad luck. Another theory is that Abelard was writing a book on Trujillo's alleged supernatural powers, but the book is never found. Abelard is sentenced to 18 years in prison, and his wife gives birth to their third daughter, Belicia. Two months later Abelard's wife, Socorro, is hit by a car and killed, and their daughters are split up. Belicia is sold to an abusive foster family, but La Inca saves her.

The story next moves to Oscar after his graduation from college, when he returns home to New Jersey and becomes a teacher at his former high school. After suffering a period of depression, he loses some weight and accompanies Belicia to visit La Inca in Santo Domingo. He soon falls in love with La Inca's neighbor, an older woman named Ybón who is a prostitute. Yet again, Oscar's feelings for her are unrequited, and one of her boyfriends is the police captain. One night Oscar's uncle discovers that someone has shot a bullet into their front door as a warning, and Oscar's family tells him to stay away from Ybón. Soon afterward, Oscar and Ybón are pulled over by the police captain, who instructs his officers to take Oscar to the cane fields and beat him. His friend Clives rescues Oscar after Oscar loses consciousness, and Oscar dreams of the golden mongoose. Belicia immediately arranges for Oscar to return to the United States.

Part 3

Oscar pays Yunior a visit and seems upbeat and happy. He asks Yunior if he can borrow some money to get an apartment, and Yunior gives it to him, not realizing that Oscar will use it to fly back to Santo Domingo. Oscar waits outside Ybón's house for her to return, but she tells him to leave her alone. Oscar spends the next month pursuing her, while Lola and his mother try to convince him to return home. The men who beat him soon abduct Oscar, and they return to the cane field, where they shoot and kill him. Lola and Yunior fly to Santo Domingo to collect his body and arrange his funeral, and Belicia dies from cancer ten months later. Yunior and Lola's relationship falls apart, and Lola becomes engaged to someone else. Yunior also settles down, becoming a teacher and getting married. Lola gives birth to a daughter, and Yunior anticipates that someday she will visit him to learn the story of her family and break its curse. Yunior also reveals that Oscar sent a package home before his death, containing his manuscripts, but a second passage went missing. In a letter Oscar revealed that he did finally sleep with Ybón and lose his virginity.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Oscar goes to school and falls in love for the first time.

Rising Action

2 Belicia is rescued and adopted by La Inca.

3 Belicia is abducted and beaten because of her affair.

4 Oscar tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge.

5 Abelard is arrested, tortured, and imprisoned.

6 Oscar visits Santo Domingo and falls in love with Ybón.


7 Oscar is beaten and killed by the Capitán's officers.

Falling Action

8 Yunior receives Oscar's manuscripts.


9 Yunior believes Lola's daughter will end the curse.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!