Study Guide

Lola de León in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz

Lola de León

Run, Lola, Run

This Lola chick is just Oscar's wise older sister, right? Wrong. Lola changes a lot in Wao, and blossoms into quite the complex character. Like Yunior, we find her spellbinding.

Early on in the novel, we learn about Lola's punk phase, and see that it's related to her occasionally violent relationship with her mother. Lola rebels, then runs away.

There are, of course, outward signs of Lola's inner turmoil; she cuts off all of her hair. For a little while, she dresses in all black. She sounds almost like a protoytpical confused teen.

Only Lola seems to feel everything a bit more intensely than most people. Lola describes her adolescent confusion as a "witchy" feeling. Most teenagers feel antsy, but few, we think, feel possessed. It's no surprise, then, that Lola often talks about "escape" in the novel.

First, she briefly runs away in high school. Then she considers taking off for Goa toward the end of her stay in Santo Domingo. At Rutgers, Yunior sees her studying Japanese on the bus and finds out that she wants to teach abroad. Díaz even has Lola run high school track, which makes her tendency to run away literal.

(Plus, Yunior often describes Lola's legs as powerful and sleek.)

We wouldn't say that Lola is intensely unhappy, but she does have a powerful desire to escape. Perhaps Díaz wants us to see that this desire is also what motivates Beli and, in fact, much of the immigrant community.

Lola or Lolita

We need to talk about Lola and men. It's a fact that, in Wao, the female characters date worthless or cruel men. But Lola is one of the most obvious offenders, especially because she's of a more "modern" generation than some of the other characters in the novel.

So we expect her to be a bit wiser about avoiding abusive boyfriends. But she isn't.

Do you remember how Lola loses her virginity? That's right. She has sex with Aldo, who lives in a tiny room with a litter box. He's also got a cruel father, and we later see that he's into telling racist jokes.

Then there's Yunior. We know, we know; you can't help loving Yunior since he narrates the novel with such verve. But he can be a real jerk. He cheats on Lola and generally seems unfaithful. (Good, kind Max, whom we love, is the expection that proves the rule.)

Lola's oddest relationship, though, may be with the politician in Santo Domingo. This guy is the father of Lola's classmate. Lola sleeps with him a couple of times for $2,000. Weird.

Finally, late in the novel, Lola marries Cuban Ruben, and Yunior admits that she seems happy. It's possible that Lola finally breaks the book's pattern of destructive relationships in the end.

Who's That Narrator?

We were blown away when we first read the "Wildwood" section of Wao. It's true that you meet Lola in Chapter 1. You know that she is Oscar's sister and Beli's daughter. But you haven't really heard her voice yet. Sure, she has some dialogue, but you're not really intimate with her unique speech patterns and her way of thinking until "Wildwood" opens.

Some critics even say that her voice overpowers Yunior's voice. In the chapters that Yunior narrates, Yunior hints at Lola's kindness, especially when he describes Lola's relationship with Oscar. We also hear about her frankness, general sexiness, and independence.

But these qualities don't hit you full force until Lola's voice takes over. With Lola, Díaz prevents women from being marginalized in Wao. If anything, he risks letting Lola take over the novel. Way to go, Díaz.