The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Junot Díaz

First published: 2007

Genre: Novel

Locale: New Jersey; Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic; Bani, Dominican Republic

Plot: Magical realism

Time: 1944 through the early 2000s

Oscar Wao, a nerdy and large Dominican boy who is raised in New Jersey. Although his birth name is Oscar de León, his friend Yunior calls him Oscar Wao as a way of both teasing him and showing affection. People often assume he is Puerto Rican instead of Dominican, and his eyes are unattractively close together. He is equally as obsessed with science fiction and comic books as he is with falling in love. His lack of social skills make it difficult for him to date women, and his lack of girlfriends pushes him deeper into his unpopular hobbies. He believes his family is cursed and often blames his depression and poor luck on that curse. Although his loneliness causes him to attempt suicide, he maintains his determination, constantly working on his writing craft and pursuing the women he loves with kindness and respect.

Yunior de las Casas, the Dominican American college roommate of Oscar. He considers himself to be popular and attractive and is proud of his success with dating. This self-confidence also makes him a bad partner, as he cheats on the women he loves and treats them poorly. While his relationship with Oscar is significant, he also prefers to distance himself from Oscar's interests and often taunts his friend. He is very strong and puts a lot of care into his body, although he also enjoys partying and drinking. He falls in love with Lola, and although his poor behavior ruins the relationship, he never entirely gets over her.

Lola de León, Oscar's older sister. During her teen years she is rebellious, even shaving her head to shock others, but she grows into a mature and insightful woman. She is very attractive and has strong legs, and as she ages she learns how to use her sexuality to her advantage by sleeping with an older man for money and power. Her general intelligence and insight into the behavior of others allows her to be a loving sister to Oscar. She also relies on blunt and sometimes harsh messages to get through to others. Her tendency to date abusive and unkind men causes her to be in a relationship with Yunior longer than her worldliness would suggest.

Beli Cabral, the dark-skinned mother of Lola and Oscar. She is incredibly resilient and able to survive through oppression. As a result of her tough nature, she frightens others and comes across as cruel to those she loves most. She is covered with scars from her childhood as a slave in the Dominican Republic. She constantly longs to leave the place where she lives and daydreams of other lives that might not include as much suffering. She lost her mother, father, and sisters under the oppression of Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship.

La Inca, the aunt who adopts Beli and saves her from her cruel foster parents. Her generous, kind, and spiritual nature seem almost to inspire magical powers, as when she prays intensely and is able to bring her loved ones back from the edge of death. She generally encourages her family to pursue their passions even when others doubt them, although she also tries to keep Beli at home in Bani when the young woman wants to leave.

Ybón Pimentel, a sex worker whom Oscar falls in love with in the Dominican Republic. She is of mixed racial heritage and has beautiful copper eyes and unruly hair. As she ages out of her physical prime and loses some of her advantage at sex work, she spends more time drinking and living alone, which allows her to form a friendship with Oscar. She dates a man, the capitán, who is violent and cruel, and she maintains a vibrant energy despite his ill treatment.

Rafael Trujillo, the violent and oppressive dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961. He enjoys the sexual company of very young women. Because of his immense power, he gets nearly everything he wants, and when he is rejected he responds with violence, torture, and murder.

Abelard, a doctor and the patriarch of the Cabral family. He defies Trujillo in order to keep his daughter away from the dictator, all at great cost to the family. He has used his intelligence and common sense to find a somewhat peaceful life under the horrifying dictatorship, usually by avoiding conflict and remaining as unobtrusive as possible. People in his community treat him with great respect.

Jack Pujols, a rich white student who dates Beli in high school. He is cocky, and his arrogance is fed by students and adults alike. He is slender with closely cropped hair.

Jenni, a Puerto Rican woman who is good friends with Oscar at Rutgers. Her nickname, La Jablesse, translates as “the devil woman,” and she enjoys her reputation as a troublemaker. She is gorgeous and confident and always wears black lipstick.

The Gangster, a handsome man who has a romance with Beli in the Dominican Republic. He is attractive and powerful with striking gray eyes. His actions are often motivated by selfishness, such as when he lies to Beli, claiming that he is not already married. His power and wealth are entwined with the Trujillo regime, out of which he runs a sex trade.

The capitán, a powerful and violent man who dates Ybón. He is jealous, vindictive, and controlling.

Ana Obregón, a sarcastic, funny girl. She meets Oscar in an SAT-prep class. She sleeps in a bed covered with stuffed animals.

Aldo, a young man Lola dates. He lives with his much older father in a room that reeks of cat litter. He is casually racist and hardly cares for Lola, although he is happy to use her for sex.

Jacquelyn Cabral, Abelard's gorgeous daughter, who attracts the interest of Trujillo.

Categories: Characters