Heteroglossia and Trujillo: Assessing Dictatorship in the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Baker, Alex J.
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In this project, I will analyze the novel's two prominent forms of dictatorship. The first concerns the legacy of Trujillb - how he silenced an entire nation for decades, and the lasting effect of such silencing. This particular dictator is a man of both fact and fiction, of reality and mysticism (the Dominican people believed he had supernatural powers). In light of this, my work will feature historical accounts as well as the fictional accounts in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The second form of dictatorship is the act of writing itself; in the novel, Yunior's narrative approach suggests this potential, particularly with the story of Belicia, Oscar's mother. In an effort to piece together this story, Yunior must rely on secondary accounts (not Belicia. herself); it is through this indirection that the silencing potential begins to surface. In addition to recognizing this potential, however, I also want to address fiction's ability to resist it: Diaz and his writing brethren can and do (in his case) distinguish themselves from the likes of the Trujillato. Bakhtin's work in linguistics, specifically "Discourse in the Novel," elucidates an important form of resistance; Bakhtin believes that through a novel's heteroglossia, the authorial, "single voice" (O'Rourke) can fragment into a multiplicity of voices, some transcending the author, others not. I argue that The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao conforms to this Bakhtian principle and it is through the heteroglossia that Diaz can resist authorial dictatorship, just as Oscar's family (and the Dominican people) endeavors to resist the Platano Curtain-the singular voice of Trujillo and his troubling legacy.