In Junot Diaz’s novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the author depicts multiculturalism through the complex societal and cultural pressures that Oscar faces living in New York as a young Dominican-American boy. Oscar’s perspective is framed by the after-effects of European colonialism in the Caribbean, migration, and intercultural exchange. Each generation of Oscar’s family is affected by these factors and it creates a unique multicultural environment that Oscar consistently battles in his day to day life.
The novel moves away from the myth of “other” cultures assimilating, but it goes in depth into the struggle to create a just multicultural society that respects the values and practices of interdependent groups. Diaz emphasizes “traveling cultures” when Yunior frequently uses science fiction in his narrative. Magic Realism was developed in the Caribbean when the imagination of African slaves got mixed up with the beliefs of the pre-Columbian natives and the fantasy of the Spanish coastal city, Andalusia.
The mongoose is a recurring character that appears to Oscar and his mother, Beli, during life-threatening moments which underlines the way culture travels. The mongoose was a weasel-like creatures introduced to the Caribbean by sugar cane farmers, and it was believed to be an ally of man and “one of the great unstable particles of the Universe and also one of its greatest travelers,” as it has accompanied humanity from Africa. Another example of culture traveling is the curse of the fuku. The fuku is deeply embedded in the historical and political realities of colonial hierarchies in the Dominican Republic.
The curse leads to the attack of Oscar’s mother Beli by Trujillo’s secret police when the dictator’s sister found out that Beli had an affair with her husband. Decades later, the doom follows Oscar who is shot dead in the very same canefields by military police. The fuku curse mimics a ruthless dictatorship and Oscar says that “even if you don’t believe in the fuku, it believes in you.” The people of the Dominican Republic had no choice but to fall under the dictatorship of the government, despite the fact that they disagreed with it.
The novel also focuses on the internal divisions based on the performance of race and gender within the Dominican community. Young adult Oscar’s non-compliance with Dominican values of masculinity set him apart, as well as his physical traits such as his dark sin and thicker body shape. Oscar’s troubles fitting in can be attributed to his own and his family’s experiences of diaspora, uprooting, and displacement.
Oscar’s experiences of loneliness and alienation from his surroundings resembles the outsider status of the typical hero of “American” fiction. This emphasizes the cross-cultures and the struggle of multicultural individuals who struggle to define themselves in connection with their homeland when displaced.
Multiculturalism is used in Junot Diaz’s novel as insight into a world where cultures bond in harmony and also clash lethally. Magic Realism is what keeps Oscar afloat through science fiction and old Dominican tales, however, it also results in Oscar’s social isolation and ultimate death. Oscar Wao struggles to live as a young boy in a Dominican community for his differences, asking for a world where cultures can coexist and hold each other up.