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How Race Affects the Experiences of People in “The Brief and Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

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“The Brief and Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao” Essay Introduction

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a novel written by Junot Diaz detailing children’s lives in the Republic of Dominica and, later, difficult parents and their young men in the immigrant ghettoes of New York. This ranges from children like Lola constantly being at odds with her mother and Beli fighting throughout her cancer “This time I hope you die from it” (Diaz 63), to issues of happiness, gangsters and pregnancy in the Dominican race. This novel at first glance is relatively complex, and leaves fewer answers than questions on the question of what precisely the story amounts to. However, after careful analytical reading, there are several meaningful and clear themes incorporated throughout the novel that usually contain robust statements concerning society on the subject of gender, immigration and race. In this analysis, more emphasis will be laid on how race affects the experiences of people, both subtly and overtly by examining the concepts of race and gender roles.

Concept of Race

Likewise to the novel Bastard out of Carolina, tension considered to be racial in nature seems to be adopted in this novel people’s group, and in the case of Oscar Wao, the culture of Dominica. Even though Dominicans through colonization have shared a comparable migration relationship with America than the Africans did, the Dominicans are not as much eager to be wholly related to their African Roots “forget the black skin” (Diaz 257). The author, Diaz, shifts our specific attention to the circumstance of black Dominicans who are considered descendants from Africa living in a sophisticated culture that lowers the African physical trait from skin to dark hair.

Beli, Lola, and Oscar are all dealing with being black in different kind of ways, yet they all appear not able to escape it “to escape from what was easy to enumerate” (Diaz 80). The racism portrayed in this novel is extremely heavy. On the one hand, Oscar mother who is dark-skinned is conscious of her body skin color, and wants to only date boys who are light-skinned. This maybe comes from her “Dark Periods” (Diaz 78) that took place when she was a small child and got mistreated by members of her family because of the color of her skin before her adoption. Nevertheless, the complications of the color of skin in the culture of Dominicans results from intense racism that seems to praise the separation of light skin color people in contrast to their dark neighbors who are Haitians.

Although being black is not praised, it is seen to be accepted and plays a significant role in the culture of Dominica. The author in the novel tactically uses the word “negro and nigger” (Diaz 4) numerous times, not in the nasty way, but in the informal sense to remind readers that a person in America who is a Dominican is considered similar to being black. There are particular individuals who can use the “negro and nigger” (Diaz 4) word as compliment term, while some cannot. This is significant to people who look at the Dominican culture and its black people because it allows them to see them as who they are, that is black people living in Dominican just like in America and may require respect especially when calling them not by their names but by derogatory names such as “negro and nigger”(Diaz 4).

Race has another interesting aspect in the novel because it does not mention whites as key part of the story. Even though “light skin” is preferred, to be white completely, and hence losing the culture of Dominica is not. Yunior, Lola and Oscar grew up merely around immigrants from Dominica where the customs are what parents left for them behind. This customs are Dominican in nature and black related. There are no significant white characters in this novel, and when there is any mention of white people it is normally illustrated as though they are the key tormentors of all non-white individuals in high school where Oscar goes, but for the majority of the novel, they are relegated to the background.

Effect of Race on Dominican People

In the discussion concerning the concept of race, there are issues that materialize in the novel that address the issue of being black in the Republic of Dominica. The first issue addressed has been Dominicans unwillingness to be fully related to their African roots. More emphasis is seen being laid by the author on the color of the skin of Dominicans and how they feel degraded by just being dark-skinned color. This affects them physiologically because they feel like being black is degrading and associated by individuals who are backward. The author seems to emphasize that being black is something that cannot be erased, but people involved like Lola, Beli and Oscar can find ways to deal with being black in the society.

Furthermore, Diaz continues to address the issue of skin color in the Dominican culture where racism seems to praise light skin individuals. Words such as “negro and nigger” (Diaz 4) are examples of words that are used to depict the black dark skin color of the Dominican people. These two words affect the Dominican people because they are used to provide a way to segregate the community between the “negro and nigger” and the white people. This divides the community between the light-skinned and the non-light skinned people. Hence, the major concern coming from Diaz is the role of separation that racism plays in the Dominican community especially when observing the skin color of people.

“The Brief and Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao” Essay Conclusion

In the discussion, Diaz has been able to illustrate how race is significant in the Dominican culture and its effect on the population. One issue that stands out in the discussion is the issue of skin color. This issue stems from the African slave trade where the migrating slaves or purchased slaves were regarded as plantation workers and servants in the American white community. Therefore, association with the black skin color is seen in the novel as being something like a curse to the Dominican people. In fact, it will be truthful to say that most Dominican people will prefer to be light skinned people in order to get respect and recognition as opposed to being black and being subjected to segregation. The words “negro and nigger” (Diaz 4) have also been used by Diaz to portray degrading words that identify the black skin color. Hence, the issue of race is significant in the Dominican culture because it identifies the people by skin color and issues that result from being dark skinned person.

Work Cited
Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead, 2007. Print.

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