Study Guide

La Inca in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz

La Inca

La Inca and Beli are like oil and water—it's actually easy to forget that La Inca raises Beli. The two seem so different. Beli rules the de León house with an iron fist. Beli snaps at Lola; she criticizes Oscar constantly. On the other hand, while La Inca may be firm, she can be a real softie.

She dresses Beli's severe burns, and never pushes Beli to discuss where they came from, or anything else about her evil foster-parents. She lets Oscar write fantasy fiction when he visits. When Beli misbehaves in the middle of the novel, she doesn't whip her, even though this was an accepted custom at the time.

We see La Inca as a generous, kind, and, truth be told, magical mother. We might even go as far as to say that La Inca has magical powers. When the Elvises take Beli out to the canefields and nearly kill her, La Inca prays vigorously for Beli's safety. And the novel suggests that it's La Inca's prayers that save Beli.

All this is to say that La Inca has more in common with the Golden Mongoose than first meets the eye (see our "Symbols, Images, Allegory" Section for more on that magical mongoose). We're not saying that the Golden Mongoose represents La Inca, or that La Inca is a good witch and the Mongoose is her animal familiar. Only that both La Inca and the Mongoose are sources of nearly supernatural goodness.

One final note: Although Oscar and Lola call La Inca "abuela" [grandmother], La Inca isn't their real grandmother. She's their great-aunt. This tidbit is slipped in very quietly, but we believe it's important to the larger point of the novel: to provide insight into Dominican-American culture.

La Inca shows us how fluid large Dominican-American families can be, compared to more "traditional" American families.