Study Guide

All Those Evil, Murdering Menfolk in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz

All Those Evil, Murdering Menfolk

For every happy relationship in Wao, there are at least four devastating ones. And the vast majority of boyfriends in this book are really, really terrible.

We're not talking about, like, guys who forget your birthday, or dudes who make you pay for their dinner when they were the ones that asked you out. No, we're talking about women-beating, people-murdering, sex-exploiting, dictator-supporting crazy men.

That's why we've grouped them together in this section. Now, go. Read. Learn. And don't repeat Wao's female characters' mistakes.

The Gangster

We may sound like a broken record, but The Gangster is an evil dude. The only redeeming thing about The Gangster is that he actually falls in love with Beli, although it's but a brief romantic moment in his life.

And the Gangster's love for Beli ceases to be redeeming at all when you realize that it motivates him to lie to Beli. Like: I'm going to buy you a house in Miami. Like: I don't already have a wife. The Gangster becomes especially loathsome when Beli tells him that she's pregnant.

First, he tells Beli to have an abortion. Then, when word gets out about the baby, he fails to protect Beli from his crazy wife.

Here's Beli's first glimpse of this character:

Dressed in a Rat Pack ensemble of black smoking jacket and white pants and not a dot of sweat on him, like he'd been keeping himself in refrigeration. Handsome in that louche potbellied mid-forties Hollywood producer sort of way, with pouched gray eyes that had seen (and didn't miss) much. (1.3.8.2)

At first, The Gangster seems handsome, but slimy. But he's the kind of guy who knows how to go from bad to worse. The Gangster is married to Trujillo's sister; they both worked in the sex trade. As it turns out, The Gangster's connections creep all along the upper echelons of Trujillo's regime.

Let's just say you wouldn't want to bring The Gangster home to your family. He's another one of this novel's many examples of terrible men

The Capitán

Like most of the villains in Wao, the capitán seems slightly humorous until you stop and really consider how evil he is. Two points of consideration:

  1. the capitán is a macho men who beats his girlfriend; and
  2. the capitán is connected to a corrupt governement and uses his power to murder innocent people.

With these two characteristics in mind, the capitán seems like a mold for other villains in the book. Oh, wait. Trujillo is actually the mold. Moving on.

You probably remember that the capitán beats Oscar severely when he first catches Oscar with Ybón. And you probably also remember that the capitán's goons murder Oscar when he persists in his relationship with Ybón.

But to truly understand how scum of the earth the capitán is, reread this little passage:

Of course the capitán had beaten the s*** out of her too, of course she had two black eyes (he'd also put his .44 magnum in her vagina and asked who she really loved). And yet there was nothing about her that Oscar wouldn't have gladly kissed. (2.6.19.12)

The capitán is a thuggish woman-beater. We could say some meaner things about him, but we wouldn't want to be dragged down to his level.

Jack Pujols

Are you needing another jerky boyfriend character to complete your set? Look no further than Jack Pujols. Beli becomes obsessed with Jack when she enters El Redentor school. She thinks about this dude day and night. Why?

Well, he's handsome, popular, and haughty. He also has white skin. Which is important because his character shows just how prized white skin might have been during Beli's time in the Dominican Republic.

Jack ignores Beli until after Beli hits puberty. Then he notices her, because she's gorgeous. They have sex a few times and it's rough stuff. Jack isn't a giver in love, it seems, he's more of a taker.

Since Beli is dark-skinned and lower class, Jack treats her almost like a secret love. When a teacher finds them screwing in the broom closet, Pujols blames Beli for everything. He disowns Beli.

Beli's response? She's allowed to do anything she wants with "her husband" (1.3.7.7). Clearly, Beli has an idea of her relationship with Jack that he doesn't share. Like some of Oscar's loves, Jack Pujols treats Beli pretty badly.

Díaz uses him as yet another example of the scorned, cursed loves of the Cabrals. There's also quite a bit going on here with race and class. Jack is politically well connected, white, and rich. So of course he ditches Beli, who's none of these things.

Aldo

Aldo's the boyfriend that Lola goes to live with after she can't take life at home anymore. We wouldn't say that Aldo endears himself to us. No, we wouldn't say that at all.

Aldo lives with his father, Aldo Sr., in a little bungalow in Wildwood, NJ. Aldo Sr. keeps the kitty litter box in Aldo's room. In this very room, Lola loses her virginity to Aldo.

It's one of the more unromantic passages in the novel. In fact, it's dreadful. Eventually it becomes clear that Aldo isn't happy with Lola. So, Aldo tells a racist joke while hanging out with Lola and his friends. It's cruel. This is pretty much the end for them.

Since Aldo is such a waste of space, Lola's relationship to him really drives home her desperation at this point in the novel. She wants to leave home, change her life, and find her way. Lola is so eager to do these things that she leaves home for Aldo.

Aldo doesn't quite fit into the novel's collection of abusive boyfriends, but he's no prince charming either.