Summary: Chapter 8

Oscar’s family flew down to the Dominican Republic to claim his body. They had a funeral, but no one outside the immediate family came. A year after his death, Beli’s cancer returned, and she died ten months later. Lola and Yunior buried her next to Oscar.

In the period after Oscar’s death, the family made four attempts to file charges against his killers, but every attempt failed. At the time of Yunior’s writing, Ybón still lives in Santo Domingo and dances at the Riverside. La Inca, however, sold her house there and returned to Baní. Lola swore never again to set foot in the Dominican Republic and condemned all Dominicans: “Ten million Trujillos is all we are.”

Yunior and Lola broke up after Beli died, and not long after, Lola moved to Miami. She started dating another man and became pregnant.

Years have since passed, and Yunior still thinks about Oscar. He has a recurring dream in which he and Oscar are standing in a room full of books. Oscar is wearing a mask, holds a book open, and waves for Yunior to come look. The pages are blank. In some dreams Oscar smiles behind the mask. In others he has no face.

Yunior lives with his wife in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and teaches composition and creative writing at Middlesex Community College. He claims that he doesn’t sleep around with other women—“Not much, anyway”—and he spends much of his time writing. He also sees Lola from time to time. She and her husband, “Cuban Ruben,” moved back to Paterson with their daughter. Yunior still fantasizes about repairing his relationship with Lola, but he knows that’s impossible. When they meet up now, they only ever talk about Oscar.

Summary: Epilogue

Yunior appends a brief epilogue about Lola’s daughter, Isis. He notes that Isis wears a necklace that contains three azabaches—three black gemstones made from jet. Oscar wore one of the stones when he was a baby, and Lola wore another. The third belonged to Beli, who received it from La Inca when she rescued the nine-year-old girl from slavery in Azua. Now Isis wears all of them: “Three barrier shields against the Eye.”

Yunior imagines a time when the azabaches will fail to ward off evil. Isis will then learn about fukú and begin dreaming about the “No Face Man.” He envisions a day when she will unexpectedly knock on his door, and he will bring her down to his basement, where he has preserved all of Oscar’s belongings, papers, and manuscripts. Maybe, Yunior speculates, she will take all of the material Oscar collected, continue his research, and find a way to end the curse.

Some days, though, Yunior feels less hopeful. He flips through Oscar’s old copy of the graphic novel Watchmen and looks at the only panel in the book that Oscar circled. In this panel, the character Adrian Veidt, who has just helped to save the world, tells Dr. Manhattan: “It all worked out in the end.” Dr. Manhattan replies: “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”

Summary: “The Final Letter”

Eight months after Oscar’s death, a package arrived at the house in Paterson containing the last things Oscar ever wrote: a manuscript with chapters from his incomplete space opera and a long letter to Lola. The letter told Lola to expect a second package with another manuscript. This manuscript contained the results of his research into the history of the family’s curse. He insisted: “It’s the cure to what ails us. . . . The Cosmo DNA.” But this second package never arrived.

In his letter, Oscar confided to Lola that he and Ybón did indeed manage to spend a weekend alone together away from Santo Domingo. He lost his virginity to the older woman, and though he enjoyed the act of sex, he felt more moved by the everyday intimacies of simply being with another person. The last thing Oscar ever wrote concluded ecstatically: “So this is what everybody’s always talking about! . . . The beauty! The beauty!”

Analysis: Part 3, Chapter 8 & Epilogue & “The Final Letter”

The events after Oscar’s death recall the events that occurred in the wake of Abelard Cabral’s fateful arrest, two generations prior. Not long after Trujillo had Abelard put in prison for allegedly insulting him with a joke, a series of tragedies struck. Abelard’s wife killed herself, and his two elder daughters died in different but equally mysterious circumstances. His third daughter, a newborn, drifted into a harsh life as a child slave. According to Yunior, this series of unfortunate events bore the mark of the fukú curse. Two generations later, the curse still seems active. Not only has Oscar died in the same cane field where both he and his mother had previously experienced awful beatings, but the family’s troubles haven’t ended with his death. In the midst of the family’s failing struggle to win justice for Oscar, Beli’s cancer returned and took her life shortly thereafter. Following her death, Lola dumped Yunior, breaking her last-remaining link to life as it existed when her family was still alive. Though the events that followed Oscar’s death were not as extreme as those that followed Abelard’s arrest, they still showed the signs that the fukú curse remained alive and well.

The name of Lola’s daughter, Isis, suggests that she might find a way to bring an end to the fukú curse that has long afflicted the de León/Cabral family. According to the mythology of Ancient Egypt, Isis was an immensely powerful goddess. Isis presided over the vast domain of life and the living. She wielded great magic that allowed her to protect women and children and to heal the sick and dying. Her magic was so powerful that she once revived her dead brother and husband. As a figure closely associated with healing and protection, Isis offers a strong symbolic counterpoint against the destructive powers of the fukú curse. Although Yunior doesn’t comment directly on Isis’s name, he does express his belief that she may find a way to end the curse. It is with this belief in mind that he has gone to such great lengths to preserve all of Oscar’s belongings and papers. The research that Oscar conducted throughout his final days in Santo Domingo may not have survived, but some secrets may lie hidden in plain sight in his unfinished science fiction masterpiece. Yunior hopes Isis will pick up where Oscar left off.

Despite a life lived mainly in the shadows of disappointment and depression, Oscar’s final words express feelings of jubilation and hope enabled by his first (and only) sexual experience. Oscar’s experience with Ybón allowed him to let go of the longstanding pressure to live up to normative standards of Dominican masculinity, which put a premium on sexual prowess. More importantly, in relinquishing his expectations for himself as a Dominican male, Oscar discovered something about his sexuality that he’d never expected to find. He learned that the intimacy of everyday closeness satisfied him more deeply than the actual act of having sex. Such a powerful moment of self-discovery inspired Oscar with more positivity and hope than he’d ever felt in his life. The experience also filled him with a sense of beauty that may have convinced him of his ability to complete his research and end the fukú curse as he implied in his last letter to Lola. Oscar’s affirming experience with Ybón likely provided him with much of the courage he displayed in the final moments of his life.

The novel’s final three sections invite ambiguity. On the one hand, Yunior’s account of Oscar’s life and family history ends with much hope for the future. Before he died, Oscar believed that his research might provide a cure to the curse that afflicted his family. And even after his death, there remained avenues for hope. Yunior moved on with his life and got a meaningful job teaching creative writing. Lola also moved on and had a daughter. Yunior believes that Lola’s daughter has the capacity to destroy the curse once and for all. But despite all this positivity, the novel’s epilogue introduces doubt. Yunior describes a single panel that Oscar highlighted in a comic called Watchmen in which one of the characters asserts that nothing ever really ends. It isn’t clear what this claim means in the context of Oscar Wao. Does it imply that the curse will never end, just as Yunior’s cheating on women clearly hasn’t ended? Does it mean that the injustices of history so prevalent in the book will never really end? Will the challenges of diasporic identity never end? Yunior leaves readers to answer these questions for themselves.