The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz has gained numerous awards. This passionate story of a family which has lived through horrors of a country, where a vicious dictator commits his inhumane crimes, touches the reader’s heart. Some argue that the book cannot be regarded as a serious literature since its language is far from being decent.
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However, it is important to remember that Díaz is telling a story about crimes and violence, he highlights the life of people who live in different world, e.g. in the world of gangsters, finally, he depicts a world of immigrants whose native language is Spanish. Therefore, English, Spanish and vulgar language are intermingled in the book to make the reader feel the atmosphere in which the main characters exist.
From the very first pages of the book Díaz uses Spanish words without explaining what they mean. He is talking about “tía”, “abuelo”, “pueblo” (5). Those who are ignorant to Spanish do not know the exact meaning of these words, but it is still clear that it is about family and the place where these people live. The narrator is telling a story of his ancestors whose native language is Spanish. It is but natural that the narrator uses many Spanish words.
Some argue that the use of unclear words makes the reader put away the book. Nevertheless, this argument is quite vague. The meaning of the passages is still clear even if some words are unknown. Instead, when these words are used, the text becomes more evocative.
For instance, such passages as “All I wanted was to dance. What I got instead was esto, she said, opening her arms to encompass the hospital, her children, her cancer, America” (Díaz 113). Admittedly, the meaning of the Spanish word is clear. At the same time the word “esto” is much more emotional than its English equivalent “this” in this context.
As far as the use of vulgar language is concerned it is also justified by the events depicted and people involved. Admittedly, young people do not use Shakespearean language when socializing. Thus, when a young man is telling about somebody he would rather say: “by then dude was blind as a bat, a living mummy” (Díaz 90). This young man will not say something like “the vicious dictator was old and feeble”.
When such vulgar language is used the reader feels that it is a written story of Oscar who is a descendant from a family of immigrants, who is trying to find his place in his world, the world of teenagers who simply want to be cool.
Apart from this Díaz depicts different worlds and even highlights the world of gangsters where vulgar language is the necessary norm. Thus, Díaz uses corresponding language to reveal the atmosphere which ruled in the worlds depicted. It would be unrealistic and too artificial to omit the language which is used in the real life by people depicted in the book.
On balance, it is possible to state that Díaz has chosen quite risky way to tell the story. He uses English, Spanish and vulgar language. However, this is the only way to make the reader understand what the main characters live through and why they conduct in the way they do. Finally, the specific way of telling the story makes people think of all those horrors which took place or can take place in reality not far from their homes.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead, 2007.