Quote 4

Whether what follows was a figment of Beli’s wracked imagination or something else altogether I cannot say. . . . But no matter what the truth, remember: Dominicans are Caribbean and therefore have an extraordinary tolerance for extreme phenomena. How else could we have survived what we have survived?

This quotation appears near the end of Chapter 3 just prior to Yunior’s account of what happened after Beli’s horrific beating. The two men who attacked her had left her to die in the cane field where the assault took place. Alone and sensing her own impending death, Beli experienced one last surge of energy as she realized the real cause of her suffering: The Gangster, whom she had come to love and trust, had allowed this to happen to her. This realization stoked an anger that inspired a fierce desire to survive. At this point, Yunior interrupts his account with the quotation above, preparing the reader for a strange occurrence in which a mongoose with “golden lion eyes” appears beside Beli and speaks to her. The mongoose informs Beli that she has lost the child she was carrying but explains that if she gets up and saves herself, she will have two more children in the future. These words compel Beli to limp out of the cane field toward a highway where traveling musicians pick her up and drive her to the hospital.

Yunior takes special care to prepare the reader for the mongoose episode because he wants to highlight the way Caribbean reality often appears supernatural. This is a theme he explores elsewhere in the novel. In the prologue, for instance, Yunior describes the Caribbean as a land of science fiction and fantasy. He makes this claim in order to establish the plausibility of fukú, the seemingly science-fictional curse that he believes afflicts all Dominicans. To illustrate his point further, he draws comparisons between the evils wrought by the Dominican dictator Trujillo and some of the great genre supervillains, such as Sauron in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In the present quotation, Yunior echoes his earlier claim as a way of encouraging the reader to accept the events that follow. The sudden appearance of the golden-eyed mongoose seems to come out of a fantasy novel where animals talk—much like the novel Watership Down, which Lola read as a teenager. And though Yunior admits that Beli could have imagined the whole thing, his later account of Oscar’s encounters with the same mongoose indicates he really believes in the reality of this apparently “extreme phenomenon.”