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Literature & Language
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English (U.S.)
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Critical Theory (Term Paper Sample)

Using the main book "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" By Junot Diaz and the book "Critical Terms for Critical Study" (Chapter on Gender and can use chapter on "Desire"ONLY) Edited by Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin- 2nd Edition ONLY If you choose to write a conventional critical essay for your final paper the specific topic is up to you as long as it focuses in some way on an aspect of the novel connected to one or more of the critical terms or theoretical issues we have discussed over the course of the semester. Following are some suggestions. Note that a number of them provide somewhat different critical frameworks for exploring similar topics. In choosing your topic, consider what interests you in the novel and which approach would be most helpful in exploring those interests and developing an argument about the novel (be sure to review my tips for writing a successful paper at the end of this document). “Gender” Use any elements of this essay you wish to as a point of departure for analyzing the role that gender plays in Díaz's novel. Your paper can analyze the conscious attention Díaz pays to gender in the novel (the different models of masculinity and femininity its characters are subject to, for example), or you can develop a critique of the way in which Díaz handles gender issues. The novel's treatment of sexuality might come into play here as well, though see the prompt below on “Desire.” “Desire” Drawing on our discussion of desire, explore some aspect of the novel's treatment of desire and sexuality and the role it plays in the lives of it's main characters (this need not be limited to the role it plays in their personal lives, since Díaz is particularly interested in blurring the line between the personal and the political). This is a big and complicated topic in the novel so be careful to develop a focused analysis. source..
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Desire refers to having the urge to get something or to have something for a specific need or use. It usually involves an inner feeling of want. In the novel, the author has managed to bring about the theme of desire in several instances. This is a theme that is common to most of the main characters in the novel and it comes out very clearly. In this section we are going to explore some aspects of the novel`s treatment of desire and sexuality and the role it plays in the lives of the main characters. In Díaz's Dominican Republic, and in the immigrant neighborhoods in which Oscar, Lola and Yunior grow up, women are things, objects of desire, whose worth is measured solely by their attractiveness to men. And they all buy into it. The internalized racism on display in the novel is scary (Oscar's dark-skinned mother is self-conscious of her skin color, and as a girl will only date light-skinned boys), but not nearly as terrifying as the internalized misogyny that every single female character--even the indefatigable Lola--drinks down with her mother's milk. Oscar, fat and unattractive, at least survives his childhood, but when a neighborhood girl is similarly afflicted, she goes crazy with self-hatred. Nearly every female character in the novel has a boyfriend who slaps her around, and to whom she goes back again and again. Not a single one of them seems to consider that she doesn't need a man in her life. The seeds of Oscar's family's downfall are sown when the dictator Trujillo hears of the beauty of their eldest daughter, whom Oscar's grandfather refuses to make available to him. And, of course, there's the defining characteristic of the Dominican male--his promiscuity. "It's against the laws of nature for a dominicano to die without fucking at least once," Yunior tells Oscar.
There are some quotes in the novel that brings about the concept of desire quite clearly. "[Belicia], like her yet to be born daughter, would come to exhibit a particularly Jersey malaise—the inextinguishable longing for elsewhere." (p. 77). Both Belicia and Lola desire escape—but that desire is "inextinguishable." So even when they are able to escape (as both of them are on a few occasions), they are still not satisfied. The narrator describes this feeling as being "particularly Jersey" in reference to the state of New Jersey, where Belicia and Lola spend most of their lives. Describing the malaise as "Jersey" universalizes it, presuming that Lola and Belicia are not the only ones in New Jersey who feel this way. Malaise means an uneasiness or discomfort whose exact cause is hard to identify; no matter where each woman is, she feels this discomfort, and neither character understands why she longs for other places. This feeling correlates with the theme of being an outsider/immigrant who does not feel she belongs anywhere.
In the novel, (p.190),...
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