Study Guide

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao What's Up With the Ending?

By Junot Díaz

What's Up With the Ending?

Sniff, sniff; hold on, give us a minute to compose ourselves. The end of this book is pretty powerful, don't you think? Wao ends with a quote from the final letter Oscar sent from the Dominican Republic to his sister Lola. Perhaps, Yunior suggests, it's the very last thing that Oscar ever wrote.

So why does Díaz leave us with some of Oscar's last words? Well, we think the letter is important because:

  1. It gives Oscar the final say.
  2. It affirms love and beauty and all those other warm n' fuzzy life experiences, despite the many tragedies contained in the book.

The preceding pages of Chapter 8 wrap things up for Yunior and Lola, but Oscar has largely disappeared from view. So this ending refocuses us on our boy Oscar. Letting Oscar play us out with his exit music suggests the importance of Oscar's character to the text. (In case you forgot that his name also appears in the title.)

So why is Oscar such a big deal in this book? We think Díaz wants to highlight Oscar's triumph over the police, who represent the oppressive government of the old Dominican Republic. Despite the capitán's warnings, Oscar falls in love with Ybón.

So Oscar's narrative speaks to how an individual can triumph over a cruel, faceless authority. Whoa, heavy.

You may not have noticed Díaz's sly allusion in the last two sentences of the novel. If you did, we'll give you a second to pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

Anyway, if you've ever read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, you'll remember the famous last words of the character Kurtz: "The horror! The horror!" Kurtz whispers these words on a boat in the Congo.

Well, Díaz revises Kurtz's last words. After multiple lovelorn episodes, our boy Oscar finally ends up having sex. So he finally discovers all the "little intimacies" of being in love with another person (3.final letter.4). Díaz's revision of Kurtz's words, then, chooses to emphasize the loveliness of life, rather than its horrors:

So this is what everybody's always talking about! Diablo! If only I'd known. The beauty! The beauty! (3.final letter.4)

Here's another way of putting it: despite all of the suffering in the book—all of the oppression characters experience at the hands of dictators like Trujillo—Díaz wants to affirm the "little intimacies" of life. He wants to show us that, in his own way, a geeky Dominican-American from Paterson, NJ can defeat the Evil Lord Trujillo.

Not satisfied? Okay, okay. You Shmoopers are some ruthless(ly) dedicated readers. There is an alternative interpretation of the book's ending.

You could say that maybe Oscar (and Yunior) don't defeat the fukú after all. It's possible that Oscar and Yunior's triumphs are only temporary—that they've only made a dent in the enormous supernatural force that is Trujillo and the New World fukú.

Maybe Díaz wants to leave it up to the next generation of Dominican-Americans to finish the fight against these forces of evil. And if Díaz ever does write a sequel to this book, we totally think he should call it Fukú Fighters II: Trujillo's Undoing.