Not So Wondrous: The effects of a brutal dictatorial
regime illustrated by Junot Diaz
The brutality of the Trujillo Regime lasted for thirty years. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was named the ruler of the Dominican Republic in 1930, and continued his tyranny until his assassination in 1961. El Jefe, as he was often referred to, (meaning “the boss”) was originally an army general, and took power as a dictator following the rule and overthrow of Horacio Vasquez. Under Trujillo’s rule, the intense violence in the country became overwhelming. Though he officially stepped down as president almost ten years before his assassination, he continued his command as an unelected military dictator ...view middle of the document...
Junot Diaz’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is a perfect demonstration of this brutality.
Though much of Diaz’ novel is filled with humorous descriptions of the protagonist, Oscar, playful slang and sarcastic comments, the undertones referencing the cruelty of the Trujillo Regime are undeniable. Jim Hannan, when reviewing the novel, described the story as:
…a biting and justifiably angry portrait…of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic…despite the sarcasm and grim humor that run throughout this novel, it is often a book of horrors. The sections on Trujillo’s reign- his abuse of girls and women, and his ruthless imprisonment, torture, and murder of opponents…become increasingly chilling. (Hannan)
Hannan’s argument that the book is more about violence and less about Oscar is supported over and over throughout the novel. Diaz, both subtly and obviously, depicts violence, and almost every character deals with it at some point in the
story. The most barbaric examples of this violence surface with the beating of Oscar’s mother, Belicia Cabral, and the abuse and murder of Oscar himself.
The third chapter revolves around the life of Belicia Cabral, describing her physical transformation into an unbelievably beautiful woman and her relationships with men. Eventually, Beli becomes involved with a man often referred to in the story as “The Gangster.” Their affair lasts for months, and Beli becomes pregnant with his child. Only then, does the reader find out that the Gangster is intimately tied with the Trujillo family, being married to the dictator’s sister. When the Gangster’s wife catches wind of the affair, Beli is brutally beaten; “they beat her like she was a slave…it was the sort of beating that breaks people, breaks them utterly” (Diaz 147).
This beating is echoed with Oscar’s toward the end of the novel. Though not induced by Trujillo’s people because that regime was over, it demonstrates the same unfathomable, pointless violence that resonates throughout the story. Diaz describes this beating more vividly than the first:
All I know is, it was the beating to end all beatings…He shrieked, but it didn’t stop the beating; he begged, and that didn’t stop it, either; he blacked out, but there was no relief…Toward the end…all life began to slip away…(Diaz 299)
Diaz also devotes a portion of the novel to Oscar’s family history, specifically that of his mother’s parents and siblings, who were torn apart under the hand of Trujillo. The eldest daughter, Jacquelyn, grew to be very attractive, which naturally sparked
the dictator’s interest. Exercising his power, Trujillo indirectly instructed her father to give Jacquelyn over. When this command was defied, Jacquelyn’s father was taken to jail and tortured, and held in prison until his death. Though this is simply a fictional part of Diaz’ novel, this situation is precisely accurate to...