In Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, women in the Dominican Republic are objectified by men; they are treated as sex symbols and objects of desire. Similarly, a women’s worth is dependent upon her physical attractiveness solely and not her character. Women are also chastised and physically assaulted for failing to subjugate themselves to men. What role and power do women have in the novel and is it merely limited to pleasing Arguably Beli more than anyone understands how important a favorable appearance is in Dominican life and especially at her new school, El Redentor. At school, Beli is lready the other or an alien.
She is from a lower social class, has dark brown skin, and rough around the edges to say the least. She decides to further alienate herself by being “defensive and aggressive and mad overactive” (83) which left her alone. But, once puberty hit, Beli was now “la tetua suprema: her tetas were globes so implausibly titanic they made generous souls pity their bearer and drove every straight male in their vicinity to re-evaluate his sorry life” (92). Beli was aware of her new hour glass figure and used it to her advantage. Now, she could get what ever she wanted simply by batting her eyelashes because he’s gorgeous.
She snagged and had brief flings with men like: Jack Pujols, the richest and most desirable boy at school, and grown men at her job. Both Jack and all men were overjoyed to get attention from her. Through these experiences at a young age, Beli learned her power: sexuality. Initially, this benefitted her, but ended up costing her in the long run with the cycle of violence she would have to endure. The cyclical trap of violence is seen with her relationship with the Gangster. Beli thought that the Gangster truly loved her and eventually marry her especially men? since she was pregnant.
In reality, the Gangster was married to Trujillo’s sister and never could marry Beli. Once his wife found out that Beli was pregnant the situation got worse. Two goons kidnapped her. At the cane field, they beat her until her eye and breast are swollen; her lip busted and pregnancy terminated. This short anecdote depicts that even other women often times do not stick up for other women. That even women are often times just tossed aside and battered. This initial period signifies Beli’s role in Dominican culture to be desirable, beaten and never stood up for (at least until she meets La Inca). Unlike Beli, however, La Inca is a kind mother.
Beli constantly nags Oscar about his weight and yells at Lola. On the other hand, La Inca is firm and never raises her voice at the children. She understands Oscar and Lola; she just let them be who the are. In the summer, she would let him spend hours reading his sci-fi fantasy books because it made Oscar happy. La Inca’s purpose is to be there for every member of the family and she is. She saves Beli from her horrible foster parents who punished her by pouring hot oil down on the nape of her neck. Even more impressively, La Inca does not pressure Beli to speak about that ime period of her life.
She only tries to advise Beli on her rebellious life choices and is there to help her every time she falls. For example, when Beli is taken to the cornfield by the goons La Inca prays for Beli’s safety. It is noted that her prayers saved Beli and had some sort of supernatural element to them. La Inca’s purpose and power is prayer. It’s like the Mongoose in a sense; she always show up right on time. In the era of Trujillo, image is powerful and cannot be overlooked. If your appearance was advantageous, you were looked at as the just next girl to be sexually exploited by the regime. was as if women were just collateral damage or a pawn in a game of chest, they were used, abused, then thrown away.
There were “hundreds of spies whose entire job was to scour the provinces for his next piece of ass” (217). Men even offered their daughters to Trujillo to show their loyalty to the infamous dictator. But, Jacquelyn, Abelard Luis Cabral’s first daughter, was different. She was intelligent and had the makings to be an excellent surgeon just like her father. Since Trujillo wanted Jacquelyn for her “off-the-hook looks” (216), Abelard hid her from Trujillo. This was treason and resulted in
Abelard’s arrest. This anecdote supports the claim that a women’s role is submissive and to be objectified by men because in their culture was normal. It was seen as inevitable and revealed that if you go against the regime you will be violently struck down. Women will either be struck down physically or with the curse, fuku, which is seen in the example below. While Abelard was imprisoned, Socorro committed suicide, Jackie “was found drowned” in a pool, Astrid is hit by a stray bullet, and Belicia was ‘black”. Belicia’s “black complexion [was] an ill omen” (248) and a flashing sign of fuku to Dominicans.
She was sold to her extended family and later faced trials for being a beautiful person. Jacquelyn’s purpose was to display the impact of appearance, cyclical pits of abuse of power, and generational curses. Finally, Lola like Beli evolves throughout the novel. Initially, she follows in Beli’s younger rebellious footsteps by arguing with her mother and being in somewhat of a violent relationship. Also during this time, she went through her gothic or punk phrase of dressing in all black and cutting her hair off like Brittney Spears in 2010. Then, she loses herself and runs away from her culture.
Then, she decides to study Japanese in a foreign country. Her dreams slightly changed when she found out about boys like Aldo. Aldo, another worthless boy, is the one she loses her virginity to in a tiny room that smells like cat feces. Next, she dates Yunior who is a jerk that is madly in love with her, but at this point in his life seems to continuously cheat on Lola out of boredom. Then, Lola has her weirdest relationship of all with the father of one of her classmates. They have casual sex nine times and after she asks for $2,000 in exchange.
The significance ehind these events is that Lola repeats the cyclical trap of dating worthless or dead-beat men until she decides to break the pitfall. Her purpose was to end this cycle and she did by marrying a kind hearted Cuban man that treats her well. She learned that “love was a rare thing, easily confused with a million other things” (321). By experiencing what she did, she learned how differentiate between love and lust. Likewise, her role displays how easy it is to fall for the pitfall of being in an abusive relationship. More importantly, because Lola broke the cycle maybe now her daughter can break end the curse or fuku.
Lola’s daughter represents hope for breaking the family curse, ending Trujillo’s regime, and demanding better treatment of women. How? All from using Oscar’s supernatural papers to solve the mystery. Most of the female characters in the novel have similar qualities. They all experience or witness violence either indirectly or directly. Violence is indirectly inflicted by seeing violence enacted on others like family members or directly inflicted by being physically assaulted. But, as the novel progress no longer have to follow the stereotypical Dominican women’s role. Women can be more than objects just to entertain men.