The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
How we cite our quotes:
Not that his "girlfriends" fared much better. It seemed that whatever bad no-love karma hit Oscar hit them too. By seventh grade Olga had grown huge and scary, a troll gene in her somewhere, started drinking 151 straight out of the bottle and was finally taken out of school because she had a habit of screaming NATAS! [tits] in the middle of homeroom. Even her breasts, when they finally emerged, were floppy and terrifying. (188.8.131.52)
A good number of the characters in Wao are hit hard by puberty. Olga is no exception. This description of Olga sounds like a pretty extreme case, though, in our opinion. The fact that she starts drinking seriously strong rum suggests that she isn't too happy with all these changes in her body, and her life.
And the lovely Maritza Chacón? The hypotenuse of our triangle, how had she fared? Well, before you could say Oh Mighty Isis, Maritza blew up into the flyest guapa [pretty girl] in Paterson, one of the Queens of New Peru. Since they stayed neighbors, Oscar saw her plenty, a ghetto Mary Jane, hair as black and lush as a thunderhead, probably the only Peruvian girl on the planet with pelo curlier than his sister's (he hadn't heard of Afro-Peruvians yet, or of a town called Chincha), her body fine enough to make old men forget their infirmities, and from the sixth grade on dating men two, three times her age. (Maritza might not have been good at much—not sports, not school, not work—but she was good at men.) (184.108.40.206)
Maritza's experience of puberty is similar to Lola and Beli's experiences. Both Lola and Beli become guapas [pretty girls]. They discover just how powerful their good looks can be—and the influence they can have over men.
High school was Don Bosco Tech, and since Don Bosco Tech was an urban all-boys Catholic school packed to the strakes with a couple hundred insecure hyperactive adolescents, it was, for a fat sci-fi-reading nerd like Oscar, a source of endless anguish. For Oscar, high school was the equivalent of a medieval spectacle, like being put in the stocks and forced to endure the peltings and outrages of a mob of deranged half-wits, an experience from which he supposed he should have emerged a better person, but that's not really what happened—and if there were any lessons to be gleaned from the ordeal of those years he never quite figured out what they were. He walked to school every day like the fat lonely nerdy kid he was, and all he could think about was the day of his manumission, when he would at last be set free from its unending horror. (220.127.116.11)
High school kids can be cruel. This is a known fact. What's also sad to us about this passage is that Oscar will later return to Don Bosco. First, Oscar comes back as a substitute teacher, and then, as a full-time teacher. It's possible that Oscar only breaks away from this painful "medieval spectacle" when he visits the Dominican Republic. High school, man. High school…