Postmodernism and Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory highlights the prioritized techniques of the modern and postmodern styles in narration. Particularly, some passages of the book are focused on the “alignment of hypertextual practice with postmodern theories of textual production” (Shen 14-15). This approach to the postmodernist writing style has both proponents and opponents that base their opinions on two alternative thoughts that are reflected in the contradiction between the two styles.

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Based on the encyclopedic viewpoint, it turns possible to make a connection between text and hypertext similar to the relations between modernism and postmodernism in reference to the magical realism writing technique of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This story is the sample of postmodernism approach to writing that combines the features of real and surreal events and highlights the relationship between natural and supernatural realities, based on the textual and hypertextual evidence. From the point of view of modernism, the present world is broken, and art can change it for better. The counterargument of postmodernism states that the world has always been broken and the efforts to try to change it for better with art have to be put back. Junot Diaz in his literary work about Oscar Wao takes the postmodernist approach by faith, formulating the notion that art cannot improve the world but can develop reflections based on the ontological approach, in contrast to the epistemological approaches offered by modernists.

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The book has a predominantly realistic cultural context as it depicts the life of immigrants from the Dominican Republic in the United States of America. The features of their characters add specific color and intensity to the culturally significant voice of the literary work. For instance, Oscar cannot find a suitable connection to the new reality, so he suffers from a lack of contagiously significant life. He finds it hard to socialize and find love, so he is drowned in the world of his supernatural dreams that are not close to reality. The author depicts Oscar’s life and the life of his family in the style of magical realism. With references to the other texts, this work is close to Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and The Old Man with Enormous Wings. Magical realism presupposes the use of metaphorical and fantastic interpretation of reality in the frameworks of the postmodernism formula. The nerd boy Oscar is too much attached to the fantastic world of science and comic books, and sometimes he is drowning in the sea of depression, overeating to satisfy his mental pain. His escapism from reality is shown in much evidence from the book, particularly in the episodes of supernatural events (e.g. when godlike mongoose rescues Oscar and Belicia). The features of family folklore are present in the story-like experiences proving that everything is possible in life, even extraordinary events.

This viewpoint has been proved by the clear position formulated by Junot Diaz towards Oscar Wao. He is depicted as a postmodernist character who has “the other” identity and cultural experience formulated in the perspectives of immigration. The ontological insights in this book are clearly supported by the evidence of the poor life of those who have come to the United States of America but found it hard to adapt to the new lifestyle. In this relation, the book includes many facts within the footnotes (e.g. references from comic books, science, etc.). The footnotes help to explicate the world of magical realism created by Oscar Wao.

The narration of the book is stylistically significant considering the postmodernism tradition. The storytelling is extraordinary and exaggerating. It is the sample of a literary work that finds a suitable correlation between modernism and postmodernism, in reference to the characters and events that have the features of magical realism.


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