Study Guide

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Mongoose

By Junot Díaz

The Mongoose

Did you even know what a mongoose was before reading this book? We didn't. 

Anyway, one of these scrappy little carnivorous beasts plays an important role in Wao. Why?

Well, the Mongoose, who is a magical force of good, directly opposes Trujillo, who is a magical force of evil. Think Gandalf versus Sauron. If you don't believe us, maybe Díaz's footnote will convince you:

The Mongoose, one of the great unstable particles of the Universe and also one of its greatest travelers. Accompanied humanity out of Africa and after a long furlough in India jumped ship to the other India, a.k.a. the Caribbean. Since its earliest appearance in the written record – 675 B.C.E., in a nameless scribe's letter to Ashurbanipal's father, Esarhaddon – the Mongoose has proven itself to be an enemy of kingly chariots, chains, and hierarchies. Believed to be an ally of Man. Many Watchers suspect that the Mongoose arrived to our world from another, but to date no evidence of such a migration has been unearthed. (1.3.18.38)

When Díaz says that the Mongoose "has proven itself to be an enemy of kingly chariots, chains, and hierarchies," you can be pretty sure that he means Trujillo. Add to this the fact the Mongoose often appears bathed in golden light, and presto—the Mongoose is a fantastic force of good.

The first time we lay eyes on him, he's telling Beli to pick herself up and walk out of the canefields. The little guy actually puts his paws on Beli's chest and tells her to get up. Aw.

Years after Beli has her run-in with Trujillo's goons, Oscar tries to kill himself by jumping off the New Brunswick bridge. And guess who he sees (or thinks he sees)? That's right: the Golden Mongoose.

Now, Oscar isn't sure. But his description suggests to us that this is the same Golden Mongoose that saved Beli:

It was very placid, very beautiful. Gold-limned eyes that reached through you, not so much in judgment or reproach but for something far scarier. They stared at each other—it serene as a Buddhist, he in total disbelief—and then the whistle blew again and his eyes snapped open (or closed) and he was gone. (1.4.1.153)

Oscar lands on the grass divider below. He doesn't hit the road on either side of the divider. Coincidence? We think not. The Golden Mongoose definitely saved Oscar's life. This isn't the final appearance of the Mongoose, either.

When Oscar gets in deep trouble with the police capitán, and is basically dying in the canefields with no one to save him, the Mongoose leads Clives, the de León family taxi driver, to Oscar. The Mongoose sings and Clives follows. Clives finds Oscar bloodied, but still alive.

Thanks, Mr. Mongoose; you're a real peach.