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Compare Junot Diaz's use of narrative techniques to present the alienation of the characters in the collection of short stories Drown and the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Compare Junot Diaz's use of narrative techniques to present the alienation of the characters in the collection of short stories "Drown" and the novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" In the novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" and the short stories in "Drown", more than anything, Diaz creates a strong sense of alienation within his characters. Everything in the world he creates feels somehow detached from the characters, leaving an overwhelming feeling of 'otherness' for both the characters and the reader. Both of these semi autobiographical texts chronicle the lives of Dominican Americans as they struggle to find their place in society, offering honest glimpses into the self and the immigrant experience in the USA. The novel " Oscar Wao" details the family history of the main character, Oscar de Leon, from his grandfather's years spent under the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, to Oscar's days as an alienated "ghetto nerd at the end of the world" in Washington Heights, New Jersey. The loosely structured stories in "Drown" collectively tell the story of Yunior de las Casas, spanning across his childhood in the impoverished barrios of Santo Domingo, the immigration of his family to the USA, the setting of his troubled adolescence and isolated adulthood. One of the ways in which Diaz presents alienation within his characters is through his realistic portrayal of the immigrant experience in the USA. ...read more.


This conflict of identity, the wish to be more American, while still wanting to distance himself from other Americans shows how out of place Yunior feels within American society. Moreover, this conflict of identity is one of the stronger instances of authorial intervention felt within both novels. It seems that through Yunior, Diaz is writing about the conflicting feelings he had about his cultural identity as a young man and even struggles with today. These feelings of otherness Diaz creates in both "Drown and "Oscar Wao", are reflected in the use of the dual settings of the Dominican Republic and the United States, leaving both the characters and the reader straddling two worlds; feeling alienated and out of place in both. In addition to this, Diaz's liberal use of Spanish throughout both texts serves as the primary method of alienation between both society and the protagonists, as well as between the reader and the characters. In "Oscar Wao" this is compounded by the use of "nerd speak"- constant references to comics and science fiction. Even the title of the book: "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is taken from a line in an issue of the comic "Fantastic Four": "Of what import are brief, nameless lives...to Galactus." The reader who is not familiar with the marvel universe would not know that Galactus is the devourer of worlds, and that they, in a sense as readers act as Galactus; consuming Oscar's small world, then moving onto the next book. ...read more.


These flashbacks and forwards break apart the narrative and distance the reader from the main characters. The order in which the stories in "Drown" are presented is used to similar effect; all of the stories except two are in chronological order. The fourth story of the book, "Aguantando" ["Waiting"], tells of Yunior's life as a child in the Dominican Republic, but rather being a complete narrative shift, the story reads much like an afterthought, as if the character was reminiscing about a previous life, showing the character's emotional detachment. In a similar manner, the last story in "Drown", "Negocios", Yunior recounts the tale of his father's arrival the USA, ironically enough, making the beginning of the story the end again, forcefully pulling the reader out of the main story line as another means of alienating the reader. Diaz's exploration of alienation through the experiences of his characters in "Drown" and "Oscar Wao" raises deep questions within both the characters and readers. Like many others before him such as Walcott and Firmat, Diaz uses his own experiences in his writing to question the idea of cultural identity for those who often find themselves split between two contrasting cultures. This appeals to readers who can identify with this internal cultural conflict or who are questioning their place in the world, as well as allowing insight into a very introspective theme. ...read more.

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