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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Quotes


No one knows whether Trujillo was the Curse's servant or its master.

Yunior, Prologue

Here Yunior introduces the supernatural suspicions regarding Trujillo's power over the Dominican Republic and also lays the foundation for how Trujillo's curse intersects with the de León family. Yunior suggests the curse may be older than Trujillo, or it might have come into fruition through his own making.


No matter what you believe, fukú believes in you.

Yunior, Prologue

The concept of fukú, otherwise known as a curse, recurs throughout the novel, and different characters carry different beliefs about whether or not it exists and impacts their lives. Yunior has his own reservations, but here he implies that, regardless of one's own belief in curses, the curse will always be there, ready to strike.


His affection broke his heart each and every day.

Yunior, Part 1, Chapter 1

Yunior describes Oscar in his younger years here and lays the groundwork for his doomed feelings of unrequited love with girls he develops feelings for. Oscar's feelings are larger than he knows how to handle, which causes him to feel obsessive and fixated on the objects of his love. His inability to find love leads to a low sense of self-worth.


The kids of color, upon hearing him speak, shook their heads. You're not Dominican.

Yunior, Part 1, Chapter 1

Oscar's experience at college sadly resembles his outsider experience at high school. Oscar is stuck between two cultures, Dominican and American, and finds neither peer group will accept him. Because he is not as masculine and tough as is common in Dominican male culture, his identity is rejected.


She was my Old World Dominican mother and I was her only daughter.

Lola de León, Part 1, Chapter 2

Lola's depiction of her mother, Belicia, sets up both their similarities as well as their mutual antagonism based on those similarities. Their relationship is fraught and full of the tension that being from two different cultures provides. Belicia is abusive and withholding with Lola and expects her to be an obedient daughter. In return Lola rebels against her and the cultural expectations she stands for.


Everything about her present life irked her; she wanted, with all her heart, something else.

Yunior, Part 1, Chapter 3

Yunior here is describing Belicia in her youth, but he may as well be describing Lola as well, which highlights their similar tendencies as mother and daughter. Although Belicia is provided with a good life by La Inca, she feels restless. This instinct in her urges her at times to make bad decisions and ultimately drives her to immigrate to the United States.


She, the daughter of the Fall, recipient of its heaviest radiation, loved atomically.

Yunior, Part 1, Chapter 3

Here, Yunior is describing Belicia in love with the Gangster, but he may as well be describing Oscar, who also loves the objects of his affection intensely. This tendency leads both of them to tragic, violent circumstances, and here Yunior pins it on Belicia's closeness to "the Fall," or her father's actions, which caused the curse to strike their family. He implies she can't help the way she acts—it's fukú.


Trujillo was too powerful, too toxic a radiation to be dispelled so easily.

Yunior, Part 1, Chapter 3

Yunior describes how, even after Trujillo's assassination, the effects of his regime lingered on the citizens of the Dominican Republic. Although Yunior also ascribes supernatural powers to Trujillo throughout the novel, his political actions had far-reaching repercussions on Dominican culture and politics, leading to a large diaspora of its citizens immigrating to the United State in order to ensure their safety and begin new lives.


If you ask me I don't think there are any such things as curses.

Lola de León, Part 2, Preface

Lola discusses her belief that happiness is swept away easily by life itself, not due to any supernatural causes like a curse. This reveals her belief that life is difficult and can be depressing, with happiness swept away as though it were nothing. Lola is one of the only members of the de León family who staunchly claims she doesn't believe in the curse, though years later she has her daughter wear protective amulets.


He didn't want this future but he couldn't see how it could be avoided.

Yunior, Part 2, Chapter 6

Yunior depicts Oscar's return to Paterson after college graduation as a return to more of the same, a life Oscar doesn't want but feels stuck inside of. Díaz hints here at how the characters in the novel do and don't take responsibility for their own life decisions, often chalking them up to the effects of the curse in order to explain away their bad luck.


If they noticed the similarities between Past and Present they did not speak it.

Yunior, Part 2, Chapter 6

La Inca and Belicia witness the aftermath of Oscar's beating in the cane field, and although both have the memory of Belicia's similar experience years ago, neither seems willing to confront or speak about it to each other or Oscar. This silence about the past is a recurring motif in the novel of "blank pages" that aren't filled out in the family's history, dooming future generations to repeat the mistakes of the past unaware.


It's the Ancient Powers ... they won't leave me alone.

Oscar de León, Part 3, Chapter 7

Oscar utters this grimly to his taxi driver friend in Santo Domingo upon returning after his beating in the cane field. Clives is shocked to see him and worried for his safety. Oscar's utterance reveals an emerging belief in the fate of his family's curse, and that his return to Santo Domingo to pursue Ybón is inevitable despite the consequences.


If she's her family's daughter ... one day she will come looking for answers.

Yunior, Epilogue

Yunior is referring to Lola's daughter, Isis, who is still too young to understand her family's history but who Yunior suspects will one day have the same dreams about the Man Without a Face that Oscar had. He believes the curse may be able to end with her, if she is able to fill in the blank pages of her family's past, which Yunior can help provide her with.


And Manhattan, before fading from our Universe, replies: 'In the end? Nothing ever ends.'

Yunior, Epilogue

Here Yunior describes an annotation he finds in one of Oscar's beloved comic books, Watchmen. It's significant because it hints at the fact that despite Oscar's death, the curse continues and will continue until the entire story of his family can be told. This connection to the comic book universe also elevates Oscar to the supernatural status of a comic book character, a genre obsession that is detailed throughout the novel.


If only I'd known. The beauty! The beauty!

Oscar de León, The Final Letter

The last lines of the novel are also the last lines of Oscar's final letter home, in which he reveals he lost his virginity to Ybón while in Santo Domingo. His long wait is over at last, and he is ecstatic not about the physical intimacy but about the emotional experience as well. The lines leave the reader with the sense that, even though Oscar's life was cut short, he did experience happiness and wonder.

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