Proposal Title

Writing, Identity, and Giving Voice in Oscar Wao

Primary Faculty Mentor’s Name

Anastasia Lin

Proposal Track

Student

Session Format

Paper Presentation

Abstract

Writing, Identity, and Giving Voice in Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz’s 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not only set against the backdrop of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic, but the book’s characters very much interact with Trujillo’s regime and its aftermath, even though they spend much of the novel in the United States. Within the text, the tool that Trujillo exploits most blatantly in order to exert absolute control is forced silence. Accordingly, the titular character, Oscar, also struggles mightily to find a voice or an avenue for it while alive, and thus after his death late in the novel, his identity is at risk of being lost. In the proposed essay, I argue that, through a series of events and symbols in the novel, and by rejecting the politicized version of history often propagated by governments, Junot Diaz aims to create a narrative that will alleviate silence, and thereby will act as a counter to the loss of identity that comes with it. The book features two opposite forces: the fukú, a curse, and zafa, its counter-curse. Fukú is quite possibly a term for the indefinible curse of silence, and the book would then be intended to act as the zafa counter. Tellingly, Diaz is continually concerned with not allowing the novel to become a dictatorial exercise. Through his primary narrator, Yunior, Diaz challenges the role of the writer, and takes several steps to ensure that Oscar Wao is a distinctly plural narrative. If one intends to challenge the effects of a dictatorial regime, which uses brute force to literally silence and subjugate, and the hegemony in the United States which can have the same effect covertly, one cannot simply create a new text with a singular voice. The only effect that would have is to create new, possibly competing dictatorial exercise, which does nothing to deconstruct the power of a dictator. In order to truly give voice, a novel must employ a wide perspective. Oscar Wao, as a transnational text with multiple narrator written using two languages, does just that.

Keywords

Identity, Silence, Voice, Writing, Dictatorship

Award Consideration

1

Location

Room 2905

Presentation Year

2014

Start Date

11-15-2014 8:30 AM

End Date

11-15-2014 9:30 AM

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Nov 15th, 8:30 AM Nov 15th, 9:30 AM

Writing, Identity, and Giving Voice in Oscar Wao

Room 2905

Writing, Identity, and Giving Voice in Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz’s 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not only set against the backdrop of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic, but the book’s characters very much interact with Trujillo’s regime and its aftermath, even though they spend much of the novel in the United States. Within the text, the tool that Trujillo exploits most blatantly in order to exert absolute control is forced silence. Accordingly, the titular character, Oscar, also struggles mightily to find a voice or an avenue for it while alive, and thus after his death late in the novel, his identity is at risk of being lost. In the proposed essay, I argue that, through a series of events and symbols in the novel, and by rejecting the politicized version of history often propagated by governments, Junot Diaz aims to create a narrative that will alleviate silence, and thereby will act as a counter to the loss of identity that comes with it. The book features two opposite forces: the fukú, a curse, and zafa, its counter-curse. Fukú is quite possibly a term for the indefinible curse of silence, and the book would then be intended to act as the zafa counter. Tellingly, Diaz is continually concerned with not allowing the novel to become a dictatorial exercise. Through his primary narrator, Yunior, Diaz challenges the role of the writer, and takes several steps to ensure that Oscar Wao is a distinctly plural narrative. If one intends to challenge the effects of a dictatorial regime, which uses brute force to literally silence and subjugate, and the hegemony in the United States which can have the same effect covertly, one cannot simply create a new text with a singular voice. The only effect that would have is to create new, possibly competing dictatorial exercise, which does nothing to deconstruct the power of a dictator. In order to truly give voice, a novel must employ a wide perspective. Oscar Wao, as a transnational text with multiple narrator written using two languages, does just that.