At the very beginning of the novel called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the author explains the meaning of fuku – “…generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World” (Diaz 1).
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These explanations frame the main theme of the novel that is confined to describing the miserable life of Oscar and his family, as well as his failed attempts to become recognized and find love in life.
Within this context, the novel argues that the curse, or fuku, pursues Oscar and his family across generations, dooming them to tragic accidents and the character’s inability to find love and reconciliation. Nevertheless, the author hopes for zafa as a counteraction for all burdens that the de Leon family faces. The story itself is aimed at reverting the negative experience of the immigrants.
To enhance the theme of fuku, the author refers to the flashbacks from the past to describe the hard experience that Oscar’s relatives had to face. This is of particular concern to the protagonist’s mother Beli and his grandfather Aberald.
In particular, the chapter dedicated to Beli’s difficult life as she was raised in abusive families. Similar to her son Oscar, Beli cannot settle her personal life because of her social status. Her further fate is also followed by complications, and she is doomed to become a social outcast.
To emphasize the evident presence of the curse, the author writes, “she was in the grips of the Darkness, passed through days like a shade passes through life” (Diaz 160).
Although she is always on the edge of death while undergoing hardships due to the fuku, the heroine manages to survive as the Godlike Mongoose helps her. The undertone of magical realism is intertwined with the story’s events to fit in the concepts of fuku and zafa as something natural happening to the characters.
To render the mystery and mythological themes of fuku, the author experiments with various styles and assigns different narrators in the chapters of the novel. Specific attention requires Oscars’ speech that presents a language premised on his knowledge of fiction, the so-called ‘nerd’ literature.
Use of new words and phrases creates connection between the real world in which the surrounding people live and fictional world with which Oscar is obsessed. Most of the phrases like “I do not move so precipitously” (Diaz 39), or “I think she’s orchidaceous” (Diaz 35) are skillfully combined with literary language.
In addition to the autodidactic speech, there is an evident combination of Spanish and English languages that point to the protagonist’s ancestry. The presence of various dialects also explains the author’s close adherence to the mythology of fuku and zafa.
For instance, the fictional narrator of the story Yunior makes use of the mixture of both languages, representing the identity and alter ego of Junot Diaz. The choice of the narrator, however, changes from one chapter to another to convey various perspectives on a specific occasion.
The importance of introducing various speakers on the part of the novel establishes the level of author’s engagement into the story, as well as his relation to the theme of fuku and zafa in his life.
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz often resorts to symbolism and symbolic relations between characters, which is typical of magic realism style. In this respect, fuku is symbolically represented through the governmental authorities and antagonists, including the cruel dictator Trujillo who persecutes Oscar, his mother, and his grandfather.
In contrast, the novel also represents the golden mongoose, symbolizing zafa. This animal is also an immigrant because it originates from Asia, Europe and Africa. Similar to the Oscar family, the mongoose migrated to the Dominican Republic.
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Although the creature is considered as a representative of alien culture, the mongoose is depicted as a cunning and amicable animal that successfully socializes and communicates with other characters (Diaz 40). The Mongoose’s identification with zafa is also represented in many scenes of the novel. For instance, the animal helps Beli to survive during the attack by Trujillo’s people.
Oscar also encounters the golden Mongoose who protects him from the dangerous confrontation. Although the creature exists in real nature, its mysterious origins are highlighted by its sudden appearance and disappearance in the story. Beli and Oscar’s encounters with the mongoose cannot be proved because none of the characters can determine whether the creature is real or the product of their imagination.
Throughout the novel, Diaz does not only refer to science fiction through flashbacks, symbolism and language, but also creates a fictional framework imposed on the reality in which the protagonist lives. Constant interaction with fantasy and imaginary worlds creates a link between historical background of the characters involved into the plot and the supernatural events.
From the first pages, the author establishes a peculiar style of exposition of novel details through references to the supernatural. In addition, there is also a constant metaphorical comparison of the leading heroes in the story, including Trujillo’s agent who is depicted as the Witchking of Angmar, and Diaz’s constant questioning about the sci-fi reality of Santo Domingo (Diaz 1).
Involving fantastical elements in the narration seeks to provide a fictional perspective for readers to grasp the spectrum of influences on the part of antagonistic powers personifying fuku. Moreover, the curse of negative consequences is represented through the surreal dictatorship of the Dominican leader.
In addition, the book relies on the surreal events relating to Abelard and Beli who often confront serious challenges, but manage to survive. Hence, constant denial and acceptance of reality contributes to the overall mystery of the fuku and zafa reflection in the novel.
In conclusion, strict adherence to mythological concept of fuku and zafa shape the contextual framework for deliberating on the story events and characters’ negative experiences. In particular, fuku represents the hardships that every family can ensure, specifically those who migrated from other countries and who are regarded as social outcasts.
In this respect, de Leon family is subjected to constant suffering due to the dominance of Trujillo’s power and his influence on fates of the Oscar’s family members. In order to disclose the theme, the author resorts to such literary devices as flashback references, language peculiarities, and symbolic relationships that strengthen the main scope of curse and its opposition.
Therefore, both fuku and zafa are the leading concepts highlighting immigrant experience and relating the eternal confrontation of the new world with the limits created by identity, culture, and personal outlooks on life. Diaz introduces the story as a response to hard experiences of the immigrant families.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Trade, 2008. Print.