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Themes in Oscar Wao

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by

Sophia Van Slyck

on 12 June 2014

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Transcript of Themes in Oscar Wao

Oscar Wao
Oscar, a fat, awkward, female lover and repellant, who lives by himself and teaches at the high school he once hated. Having a history of constantly being rejected by females, he now resorts to staring at them from afar and fantasizing about them, even if he only just met them.
Oscar's Story
Lola
Lola is Oscar's sister, and she is a grown woman by the time the book ends. When she was young, she spent all her time trying to please her mother and be the perfect daughter, but she always felt that she wasn't good enough. One day, she decided to stop doing things for her mother and start taking care of herself instead. She rebelled, and while her mother freaked out, she continued to do what she wanted. Lola has a rocky history with Yunior.
Lola's Story
La Inca
La Inca was the woman who raised Beli. She is kind and loving - she never raised her hand against Beli in the whole time she lived with her because she loved her too much. She is Oscar and Lola's grandmother, referred to often as 'Abuela'. La Inca is faithful and respectful, and tried her best to give Beli the best chance she had. She lives in the Dominican Republic.
La Inca's Story
Beli
Beli is Oscar's mother, bearer of many heartbreaks, and an example of the most extreme cases of love, physical and emotional suffering in the entire novel. When her first child died before it was born, she moved the the United States, was married, abandoned by her husband, but continued to raise her children on her own.
Beli's Story
Themes in Oscar Wao
Sophia Van Slyck
Yunior
Yunior is the narrator of the book. He got to know Oscar when they shared a dorm at Rutger's University. Yunior knew Oscar because of Lola, whom he dated. Yunior often tried to get Oscar into shape, but never managed. Yunior now lives with his wife in New Jersey, constantly missing Lola.
Yunior's Story
Abelard's Story
Abelard
Abelard was Beli's father, and therefore, Oscar's grandfather. He was a doctor, and his wife was a nurse. He had two beautiful daughters, whom he loved with all his heart. He had a lover, whose name was Lydia. He was alive during the horrifying rule of Trujillo, of whom he was always scared. He ended up having an eighteen-year sentence in prison, and dissappeared.
Oscar's History of Love
Oscar has been enraptured by girls since he was young. “The girls - his sister Lola’s friends, his mother’s friends, even their neighbor, Mari Colon, a thirty-something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walk like she had a bell for an ass - all purportedly fell for him” - pg. BLANK. However, he became undesirable when he grew up, which left him unable to attain a girl.
Oscar's First Love
Her name was Amy, and she had a boyfriend. Of course, that didn’t stop Oscar from falling head over heels for her. However, one thing made Oscar crazy, and that was the fact that Amy’s boyfriend would hit her. One night, it got so bad that Oscar went outside of Amy’s apartment to wait for her boyfriend to come home. He brought with him his gun, intent on shooting the abusive partner, clearly out of his mind. This love ended when Oscar finally told Amy how he felt, and then went to college.
Oscar's Last Love
All of these loves boiled down to one. Ybón. The prostitute whom Oscar considered the one who started him real life. However, she also had a boyfriend. He continued to spend time with her, even though he was in danger of her boyfriend. Ybón also loved him, but was scared of what her jealous boyfriend, the capitan, might do.
Oscar's Suffering - Emotional
Because of Oscar's history of failed love, he suffered tremendously. Constantly disappointed, Oscar became depressed and extremely insecure. It seemed to him as if the only women who loved him were his sister and grandmother. He felt as if his life were meaningless.
"The darkness. Some mornings he would wake up and not be able to get out of bed. Like he had a ten-ton weight on his chest. Like he was under acceleration forces. Would have been funny if it didn't hurt his heart so. I don't know what's wrong with me, he said to his sister over the phone. I think the word
crisis
but every time I open my eyes all I see is
meltdown
."
Oscar's Suffering - Physical
While many can argue that Oscar's physical suffering was limited to the end of the book, some will say that because of his problem with being overweight, Oscar suffered physically throughout his whole life. However, it cannot be denied that the one time he most suffered was at the end, when he was 1) beaten so that he was close to death and 2) killed. Both of these occurrences happened because of Oscar's love for Ybon, and Ybon's jealous boyfriend.
"It was the beating to end all beatings. He shrieked, but it didn't stop the beating; he begged, and that didn't stop it either; he blacked out, but that was no relief; the niggers kicked him in the nuts and perked him right up! He tried to drag himself into the cane, but they pulled him back!"
Lola's History of Love
Lola's first experience with love was when she ran away with a boy named Aldo. She was miserable, but did it to spite her mother. This was the result of her mother constantly trying to tell her what to do. Her mother found her and brought to the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic, she had sex with another guy, Max. When she moved back to Paterson, she dated Yunior, but he constantly cheated on her, so she left him and decided not to talk to him again.
Lola's Physical Suffering
Lola's physical suffering did not stem from her own love; however, it stemmed from the lust of another man. When she was eight years old, she was either raped or sexually harassed by her neighbor. Though the novel does not directly state this, it does insinuate this.
"When that thing happened to me when I was eight and I finally told her what he had done, she told me to shut my mouth and stop crying, and I did exactly that, I shut my mouth and clenched my legs, and my mind, and within a year I couldn’t have told you what that neighbor looked like, or even his name."

Lola's Emotional Suffering
Much of Lola's emotional suffering stemmed from her mother constantly verbally and physically mistreating her. Because her mother would constantly tell her she wasn't good enough, Lola grew up insecure and constantly trying to be a better daughter because she loved her mother and wanted to make her happy. Also, because of her mother's reaction when Lola told her she was raped (she told her to stop complaining), she must have felt completely abandoned because her own mother did not offer emotional support. However, this experience made her tougher, which meant that, when Yunior cheated on her consistently, she was not hung up on, but rather knew how to move on.
How have you been? I asked.
Good. How about you?
Just getting ready for break.
Merry Christmas. And then, just like a de León, she went back to reading her book!
Beli's History of Love
Throughout her life, Beli had two loves. The first was Jack Pujols, a boy in her high school who promised her they would get married. Beli completely believed him, even when he left her and she never saw him again. She kept looking for him everywhere she went. Then, she met the Gangster at a bar. She fell in love with him, and got pregnant with his baby. However, the Gangster was married to Trujillo's sister, and Beli did not know this. One day, she met the wife at a park, and some of the men that worked for Trujillo took her to the sugarcane fields. There, they beat her so badly that she lost the baby she was pregnant with. Thus, she was devastated three times in her life: over Jack Pujols, the Gangster, and her lost child.
Beli's Physical Suffering
When Beli was in her pregnant pickle with the Gangster, she was beaten up badly by his henchmen. She was beaten so close to death, but her baby was the one that died instead. She spent many days in the hospital as a result.
"And when at last she returned to consciousness she did so screaming. Her arm felt like it had been pinched off at the elbow by a grindstone, her head crowned in a burning hoop of brass, her lung like the exploded carcass of a piñata — Jesú! Cristo! She started crying almost immediately, but what our girl did not know was that for the last half-week, two of the best doctors in Baní had tended her covertly; friends of La Inca and anti-Trujillo to the core, they set her arm and plastered it, stitched shut the frightening gashes on her scalp (sixty puntos in all), doused her wounds with enough Mercurochrome to disinfect an army, injected her with morphine and against tetanus."
Beli's Emotional Suffering
Due to the fact that the Gangster, as well as Jack Pujols, broke her heart, Beli was never quite the same. After her child died as a result of the beating, her heart hardened, and she never felt love the same way again. While she did love La Inca, or her children, for example, she never loved a man the same way against, because she became distrusting. This was emotional damage that was a result of the heartache she experienced because of the two men she loved that left her. She also suffered emotionally because she lost her baby, which was such great pain it was classified as her third heartbreak.
"Beli alternated from quiet weeping to gusts of rabia so fierce they threatened to throw her out of the bed and reopen her injuries. Like a woman possessed, she drove herself into her mattress, went as rigid as a board, flailed her good arm around, beat her legs, spit and cursed. She wailed — despite a punctured lung and cracked ribs — she wailed inconsolably. Mama, me mataron a mi hijo. Estoy sola, estoy sola."
Yunior's History of Love
Yunior does not have a very complex history of love. He always had trouble staying with just one girl, constantly cheating and lying. However, for some reason, he grew attached to Lola, but still cheated on her. He claims he does not know why he cheated on her, but at the end of the book, we are shown his thoughts, and he continually thinks about Lola, and how much he misses her.
Yunior's Emotional Suffering
Yunior does not suffer physically, and while the book does not emphasise his emotional suffering, as he himself is the narrator, we are shown a glimpse of his thoughts, and through this, his feelings. After he leaves Lola and marries another woman, he always thinks about Lola, missing her and torturing himself about how he should have kept her, and managed to not cheat on her. Therefore, we can see how Yunior tortures himself about this fact.
"My face is wet, and that’s how you know it’s never going to come true.
Never, ever."
Abelard's History of Love
In Abelard's case, his love was not lustful towards a women, but a love towards his daughters. Specifically, his eldest daughter, Jacquelyn, who grew into a beautiful woman. Trujilllo at this point was known for his desire for women and his ability to get any woman he wanted because of the fear he striked in the hearts of his subjects. Therefore, when Trujillo told Abelard to bring his wife and eldest daughter to a party, he expected him to obey. Abelard was scared out of his mind that Trujillo would rape his daughter, and that was stuck in his head. He loved his daughter way too much to let Trujillo do that to her.
Abelard's Physical Suffering
Abelard's physical suffering was bad, but not as bad as Beli's or Oscar's. However, he was tortured because of his crime (slander and gross calumny against the Person of the President).
"Of all the chicks I'd run up on at Rutgers, of all the chicks I'd run up on ever, Lola was the one I'd never gotten a handle on. So why did it feel like she was the one who knew me best?"
"He could see his wife and daughter being raped, again and again."
"It wasn't until he noticed the electrical contraption that the guards were fiddling with in the corner that he fell quiet. Abelard stared at it with terrible dread, and then, because he suffered from an insatiable urge to taxonomize, asked, What in God's name do you call that?

We call it the pulpo, one of the guards said.

They spent all night showing him how it worked."
La Inca's History of Love
La Inca's love is for her adopted daughter, Beli, and not for another man. La Inca had been hoping to find Beli, and when she finally did, she was elated. She loved Beli very much, and tried to give her the best chance she could. Even when Beli was rebellious or stupid, like when she got pregnant with the Gangster's baby, La Inca continued to love her. While she did discipline her, La Inca never physically hurt Beli, which was typical in the Dominican Republic, because she could not imagine herself doing that to someone she loved.
"After all, she had a madre who didn't beat her, who (out of guilt or inclination) spoiled her rotten, bought her flash clothes and paid her bakery wages." - about how La Inca treated Beli
La Inca's Emotional Suffering
La Inca suffered greatly emotionally because of her love for Beli. When Beli began to rebel because she realized how influential her body was on other men, La Inca was worried. She was worried Beli would get herself into something bad because of her habit of throwing herself around. When Beli was pregnant, La Inca did not scold her; she simply pointed out that fact. during the time that Beli was in the hospital because of her assault, La Inca was worried sick. She prayed and prayed, and other women joined her, even the ones that had made fun of Beli for being pregnant. This shows how, because she loved Beli so much, she suffered emotionally because she was always worried about her.
"Let me tell you, True believers: in the annals of Dominican piety there has never been a prayer like this. Before you could say Holy! Holy! Holy! she was joined by a flock of women, young and old, fierce and mansa, serious and alegre, even those who had previously bagged on the girl and called her a whore, arriving without invitation and taking up the prayer without so much as a whisper... A hurricane could have carried off the entire city and it wouldn't have broken [La Inca's] concentration. her face veined, her neck corded, the blood roaring in her ears. Too lost, too given over to drawing the girl back from the Abyss was she... To exhaustion and beyond she prayed, to that glittering place where flesh dies and is born again, where all is agony, and finally, just as la Inca was feeling her spirit begin to loose itself from its earthly pinions - "
The previous quote shows that Oscar was depressed and did not even want to get out of bed because he was so devastated. Even the quote said, "It would have been funny if it hadn't hurt his heart so." We can see through this that Oscar was hurting inside, and that he was having more than a low moment in his life. "I think the word
crisis
but every time I open my eyes all I see is
meltdown
." Therefore, Oscar was not just having a rough moment in his life, but re-experiencing the feeling of all the rough moments he had had throughout his life in just the time span of a couple weeks.
In the quote above, Oscar is being assaulted by some of the men that worked for Ybon's boyfriend, el capitan. Because of his love for Ybon, he was willing to be extremely physically mistreated.
Because Lola was raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, she learned to stop complaining at an early age. She became tougher and meaner, which probably led to her rebelling against her mother.
Because Lola grew up to be resilient, she was used to being short to people who bothered her, and wasn't afraid to either ignore someone or turn someone down.
Theme
The author believes that love is the ultimate cause of all suffering, both physical and emotional.
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