Analysis Of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

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Junot Diaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is focused on the hyper-masculine culture of the Dominican, and many argue that his portrayal of the slew of women in the novel is misogynistic because they are often silenced by the plot and kept out of the narration (Matsui). However, Diaz crafts strong women, and it is society that views them as objects. The novel recognizes the masculine lens of the culture while still examining the lives of resilient women. In this way, the novel showcases a feminist stance and critiques the misogynist culture it is set in by showcasing the strength and depth of these women that help to shape the narrative while acknowledging that it is the limits society places on them because of their sexuality…show more content…
By examining the narrative voice as well as the cultural restraints placed on them, readers can see the sexist culture in the novel and that the novel itself does not necessarily advocate this misogyny. Yunior, a Dominican man, is the overall narrator of the novel, so readers essentially see everything through his masculine eye. When discussing a brief fling with Lola, Oscar’s sister, Yunior says, “Even those nights after I got jumped she wouldn’t let me steal on her ass for nothing. So you can sleep in my bed but you can’t sleep with me?” (Diaz 169) His question suggests that it is his right to sleep with her, and his discussion of Lola herself objectifies her by noting only her body and her refusal to use it. This objectification is clearly sexist, but it is a reflection of the narrative voice, Yunior, not of Lola. Yunior will casually refer to a woman as “a bitch” (Diaz 183), which is clearly demeaning, but it is a man’s view and does not reflect on the substance of the women. It shows readers the culture he was raised in, not an actual portrayal of the women, illustrating a misogynist society but not a misogynistic novel. In the Dominican Republic, gender-based violence is the fourth leading cause of death, hinting at the overall problems caused by the hyper-sexualized nature of the country. Sociologist Denise Paiewonsky…show more content…
Rather, it criticizes this culture through its portrayal of women. The narrative is focused on a male and is told by a male, which reflects the male-centered society it is set in. However, when we compare how the narrator views these women to who they really are, the discrepancies act as a critique on the Dominican culture. Yunior, who represents the typical Dominican male, sees women as objects, conquests, when in fact their actions show their resistance to be categorized as such. Beli, whose childhood was filled with male domination by Trujillo and the family she worked for, attempts to gain power through sexuality, the avenue the culture pushes women toward. This backfires, creating a critique of the limited opportunities available for women. La Inca portrays a different side to this, working quietly but in ways that are not socially acceptable through self-employment. Society attempts to cage these women, but they continue to fight against it. Diaz, in an interview, quoted James Baldwin, stating, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced" (Fassler). He exhibits the misogyny in the system but does not support it, rather critiques it through strong female characters. By drawing attention to the problem, the novel advocates for change. Diaz writes, at the end of part 1, “Nothing more exhilarating… than saving yourself by the simple act of waking”
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