The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz
Foreignness and the Other Quotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Chapter.Section.Paragraph), (Act.Special Chapter.Paragraph)
There was the initial euphoria of finding himself alone at college, free of everything, completely on his fucking own, and with it an optimism that here among these thousands of young people he would find someone like him. That, alas, didn't happen. The white kids looked at his black skin and his afro and treated him with inhuman cheeriness. The kids of color, upon hearing him speak and seeing him move his body, shook their heads. You're not Dominican. (18.104.22.168)
Oscar doesn't fit in at Rutgers. Because of his skin color, the white kids treat Oscar like a breakable object. They're too careful, too cheerful around him. And because Oscar is such a nerd, the Dominican kids don't believe that Oscar is actually Dominican. Every which way Oscar turns, kids treat him like an "other." Being a nerdy Dominican is tough.
And then Aldo decided to be cute. I knew he was getting unhappy with us but I didn't know exactly how bad it was until one night he had his friends over. His father had gone to Atlantic City and they were all drinking and smoking and telling dumb jokes and suddenly Aldo says: do you know what Pontiac stands for? Poor Old Nigger Thinks It's A Cadillac. But who was he looking at when he told his punch line? He was looking straight at me. (22.214.171.124)
Aldo is sitting with a group of (presumably) white friends, and he tells a racist joke while looking right at Lola. It's odd. Even though Lola is Aldo's girlfriend, Aldo reminds Lola that she's different. That she doesn't quite fit into his life. This is a good example of how racial differences and prejudices lurk beneath the surface in this novel—they can appear at any time, between anyone.
Before there was an American story, before Paterson spread before Oscar and Lola like a dream, or the trumpets from the Island of our eviction had even sounded, there was their mother, Hypatía Belicia Cabral.
a girl so tall your leg bones ached just looking at her
so dark it was as if the Creatrix had, in her making, blinked
who, like her yet-to-be-born daughter, would come to exhibit a particularly Jersey malaise—the inextinguishable longing for elsewheres. (126.96.36.199-188.8.131.52)
This passage asks an important question: What drives someone to leave home for another country? Certainly, a dictator like Trujillo might get you running to that airport. In fact, Trujillo made a whole nation want to leave. But our narrator suggests here, too, that both Beli and Lola have a peculiar itch. They both have an "inextinguishable longing for elsewheres." Here, the personal and the political seem to converge.