Soon after this event, Yunior announced his plan to move out. On their last night as roommates, Yunior and Oscar got drunk. Yunior left the apartment hoping to have sex with a woman he’d recently met. Oscar drank more, then made his way to an overpass at the New Brunswick train station. He’d been standing on the bridge for a long time when he had a vision of a mongoose with golden eyes. The creature sat next to him in serene silence then disappeared. Oscar threw himself from the bridge. However, instead of landing on the road, he crashed into a planted median, which saved his life but broke both his legs.

Oscar recovered from his injuries back home in Paterson. He returned to his writing and set the ambitious goal of becoming the “Dominican Tolkien.” When Yunior went to visit him, Oscar confessed that the curse had made him attempt suicide. Yunior dismissed the curse as nonsense left over from a previous generation, but Oscar retorted, “It’s ours too.”

The following school year, Yunior started working more seriously on his creative writing. Lola, who’d spent the previous year abroad in Spain, was back on campus, and Yunior’s old crush resurfaced. He asked Lola out, and she reluctantly agreed. The following spring, Yunior showed up at Oscar’s dorm, said, “Mellon,” and moved back in.

Chapter 4 concludes with Yunior describing Oscar’s journal entries from the previous fall. At night, Oscar sometimes took his mother’s car out and drove aimlessly. Some nights, he fell asleep at the wheel thinking about the characters in his stories. In his journal, he wrote, “Nothing more exhilarating than saving yourself by the simple act of waking.”

Analysis: Part I, Chapter 4

In Chapter 4, the primary narrator finally reveals his identity as well as the nature of his relationship to the de León family. Throughout the novel’s early chapters, the reader has remained unsure about how the main narrator, named Yunior, fit into the story or if he had any direct involvement at all. As such, it remained unclear why he took a special interest in recounting the de León family story. This chapter makes it clear that Yunior became involved with the de Leóns via his crush on Lola and, secondarily, through his budding friendship with Oscar. With this new information, the reader realizes that Yunior’s motivation to narrate this story stems in part from his relationships with the two de León children. His motivation also stems from the fact that, like the de Leóns, he belongs to the Dominican diaspora of New Jersey. He spent some of his youth in the Dominican Republic, and he still has family there. Thus, much like the de León children, he has personal experience with the complexities of being a Dominican immigrant—American in many ways and yet also deeply informed by his Dominican heritage.

Both Oscar and Yunior feel deeply influenced by traditional Dominican standards of male sexuality, but unlike Oscar, Yunior’s sense of masculinity consistently leads him to disrespect women. In Oscar’s case, he showed women respect even when they rejected him, as he did with Ana Obregón. Despite feeling upset that she chose Manny over him, Oscar continued to center Ana’s well-being. He even plotted revenge when he learned that Manny had abused Ana. Oscar may have desired to live up to Dominican standards of male sexuality, but this desire did not result in cruel treatment of women. By contrast, Yunior privileges his own sexual needs and desires over those of the women he sleeps with. He frequently cheats on his girlfriends, and he even seems to get an extra thrill out of this particular form of cruelty. The two different manifestations of masculinity come into conflict in the case of Jenni Muñoz. Yunior, who felt annoyed by Jenni’s rejection, felt justified in calling her a “bitch.” Oscar stood up to Yunior and condemned his hateful language. Even so, Oscar later proved himself capable of misogyny when he found Jenni with another man and called her a “whore,” demonstrating that he, too, carried a strain of toxic masculinity.