Study Guide

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Identity

By Junot Díaz


Imagine that you're at a family reunion. You're talking to your uncle Ralph. He happens to be wearing the same clothes he wore at the last family reunion, and he also happens to be telling you the same story he told you five years ago. He has the same job. The same life. The characters in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao are not anything like Ralph. They change constantly, and have very complicated identities. Most of the characters go through adolescence in the novel, all while struggling to define their racial and national identities. One revealing passage of the novel reads: "It was a message more than a feeling, a message that tolled like a bell: change, change, change" (

Questions About Identity

  1. Why does Yunior hide the fact that he's a nerd, just like Oscar? Why doesn't Yunior want anyone—even his readers—to know the depths of his weakness for fantasy fiction?
  2. Why do typically "white" interests like punk rock and fantasy fiction cause Lola and Oscar so many problems? How do Dominicans treat these two characters? How do white, native-born American kids treat them?
  3. The novel recounts multiple stories of adolescence. What importance does this stage in life have in the novel?
  4. Discuss the nickname "Oscar Wao." Who names Oscar this? Why? Can you unpack multiple identities from this name? Does anyone else have a nickname in the novel?