We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Chapter 1 Summary

How It All Goes Down

GhettoNerd at the End of the World 1974-1987

The Golden Age

  • Oscar Wao isn't a playboy like the stereotypical Dominican man. Except when he was seven.
  • Porfirio Rubirosa, on the other hand, was a real Dominican playboy. All smooth and stuff.
  • Seven-year-old Oscar has two girlfriends: Marzita Chacón and Olga Polanco.
  • As you might guess, these relationships are pretty innocent.
  • One day, Marzita tells Oscar that he has to choose either her or Olga.
  • He chooses Marzita for a bunch of typical reasons: she's prettier, dresses better, etc.
  • Marzita ends up dumping Oscar anyway.
  • Oscar's life starts "going down the tubes" after Marzita dumps him (
  • Then, Oscar hits adolescence. Rather, adolescence hits him. Hard. Weight gain, zits, the whole shebang.
  • Oscar's lady friends don't do much better. Olga grows "huge and scary" and starts drinking Bacardi 151. Yikes.
  • Marzita, even though she "blew up into the flyest guapa [pretty girl]," falls for guys who beat her (
  • Oscar still likes Marzita, but she's not into him. Surprise, surprise.

The Moronic Inferno

  • Oscar is in high school. Don Bosco Tech. Paterson, New Jersey.
  • Life's rough for Oscar. He's very clearly the nerdy type. His classmates are mercilessly mean to him.
  • He is no good at sports, he can't dance, he's got no style, and he looks funny.
  • Plus, Oscar likes the geekiest stuff. Science-fiction. Dungeons and Dragons. Comic books. Role-playing games. You get the idea.
  • Here's what our narrator says about Oscar: "Dude wore his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber or a Lensman her lens. Couldn't have passed for Normal if he'd wanted to" (
  • Oscar's nerdy pastimes aren't doing his love life any favors.
  • Sci-fi novels and the like let Oscar escape from his less-than-perfect life, but they also make him a target. Other kids make fun of him.
  • Basically, it's a vicious cycle.
  • Oscar's mom isn't too supportive either.
  • Relentlessly optimistic, Oscar falls in love with tons of girls. But his general nerdiness prevents him from getting any action. It's torture for the poor guy.
  • Lola, Oscar's sister, tells him to lose the glasses, exercise, and throw out his porn. Then maybe he'll be able to get a girl. Oscar tries to do all of these things, but he ends up falling back into the same old patterns.
  • Much to Oscar's chagrin, all of Lola's friends are really hot. It's hard for Oscar to be around them, knowing they don't take him seriously.

Oscar Is Brave

  • Oscar is in his senior year of high school.
  • His best friends Al and Miggs both land girlfriends. No such luck for Oscar.
  • Al and Miggs are pretty nerdy, too. But even they are embarrassed by Oscar. Ouch.
  • They won't even ask their girlfriends to set up Oscar up with anyone.
  • Oscar decides it's time for a change. He gets his Puerto Rican 'fro cut, loses the glasses, and shaves off his mustache.
  • Feeling like a new man, Oscar goes to the Dominican Republic for the summer with Lola. They stay with their grandmother La Inca.
  • Unlike his mother, La Inca leaves Oscar alone. She lets him hole up in the house and write fantasy fiction. This is a real vacation for our man Oscar.
  • When Oscar gets back to Paterson, though, things aren't the same with Al and Miggs.
  • And Oscar gets lonely without his pals. Who wouldn't? But at least he's proud of himself. He's smart. He writes stuff. If Al and Miggs don't show him any respect, why should he hang out with them?
  • As our narrator says, "He'd finally showed some backbone, hence some pride" (
  • As Lola says, "Way to go, O!" (

Oscar Comes Close

  • Oscar meets a girl at SAT prep who seems perfect for him. She's a little weird and really good-looking.
  • Her weirdness is confirmed by the fact that she reads Henry Miller (a controversial novelist whose books have very detailed sex scenes).
  • Her name is Ana Obregón.
  • She seems complicated, too. Oscar is convinced that beyond her general sexiness and girlishness "there existed a third Ana, a hidden Ana who determined what mask to throw up for the occasion" ( Curious.
  • When Ana was thirteen, she started dating a twenty-four year old recovering drug-addict named Manny.
  • Lola agrees with Oscar that Ana's parents should've put an end to her relationship with Manny.
  • She also calls Oscar "Mister." This is sort of her nickname for him.
  • We learn that Lola wanted to put "Mister" on Oscar's tombstone.
  • Now we know Oscar is going to die by the end of the book. But the question is: how will we get from here to there?

Amor de Pendejo [Foolish Love]

  • Things are going well with Ana. Oscar rides with her to SAT class, they talk on the phone, and they're honest with each other.
  • One night, Ana picks up Oscar for the movies.
  • Lola is upstairs jumping on Oscar's bed: "It's a date, it's a date" (
  • She jumps on him and almost sends Oscar through the bedroom window.
  • The date isn't disastrous,but it isn't successful either.
  • Ana doesn't say much on the ride home.
  • When Lola asks if they had sex, Oscar says that he "didn't even get her scarf off" (
  • Wamp wamp.

Oscar in Love

  • Oscar and Ana keep hanging out, and Oscar slowly learns more about this girl.
  • She tells him about how Manny, her ex, used to smack her around.
  • See, Ana's father died in a car accident when she was young. So he couldn't have intervened in her relationship with Manny.
  • Oscar shares a little about himself. His writing, his crazy uncle, and his crush on Marzita.
  • To Oscar's great disappointment, they just remain friends. They don't makeout or have sex.
  • Then Oscar and Ana get their letters of acceptance from college.
  • Oscar gets into Rutgers, New Brunswick. Ana gets into Penn State. They'll be pretty darn far away from each other next year, it looks like.
  • Suddenly, Manny shows up. He's been in the Army.
  • As a result, Ana and Oscar stop hanging out as much.
  • Ana is clearly back with Manny. She even talks to Oscar about having sex with him, which is kind of cruel, in our opinion. Girl's gotta know that Oscar likes her, right?
  • When Oscar meets Manny, he thinks he's scary: lean, muscular, and intense.
  • Manny doesn't act too friendly towards Oscar, either. Oscar's been hanging out with his old girlfriend while he's been in the Army, after all.
  • Stubborn as ever about his infatuations, Oscar continues to love Ana. But it seems like all Ana talks about is Manny.
  • It's the same old story with Ana and Manny: Manny treats her badly, but she still loves him.
  • Unrequited love starts making Oscar crazy. He hits Miggs out of the blue and even swipes his uncle's Colt .44 pistol. He puts the pistol in his pants and waits outside Manny's apartment building. Luckily, nothing happens.
  • Looking for someone to confide in, Oscar tells Lola about the pistol and about waiting for Manny. Lola gives Oscar a good talking to.
  • She cries before the two fall asleep together on the couch. Aww.
  • Later on, Oscar and Ana meet up at the Japanese mall. He tells Ana that he loves her. Ana's response is, unsurprisingly, "I have a boyfriend" (
  • Lovelorn and alone, Oscar graduates from high school and heads off to Rutgers.
  • He swears he's going to stop being so nerdy so he can, ahem, lose his virginity.
  • But things don't exactly go as planned. After a couple semesters at Rutgers, he joins the club RU Gamers so that he can at least have some friends.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...