“After Oscar survives a suicide attempt at the end of his first year in college, he tells Yunior that it “was the curse that made [him] do it.” When Yunior rejects this explanation by insisting that the fuku is “[their] parents’ shit,” Oscar significantly replies that it belongs to their generation as well (194). When Oscar receives his first beating at the hands of the Dominican police later in the novel, it further convinces him of the reality of all of the rumors: “it dawned on him that the family curse he’d heard about his whole life might actually be true”” (Bautista 41)
In the larger picture, Wao’s own inflated sense of masculinity serves as a fuku in his interpersonal interactions, especially with girls. Suffering from an overexposure to the macho sense of gender identity Oscar often wears an artificial attire of machismo, which is quite contrary to his real personality. The irony is that this does not fetch him any rewards, and only makes him unsuccessful with girls. It is this state of confusion over his masculine identity that pushes the frustrated young man toward other diversions. Science fiction and fantasy are two such which serve as an anodyne to his problems.
Oscar’s individual problems are however perceived to be part of a larger national theme. According to Yunior, a century of Dominican history is plagued by a supernatural curse. Oscar’s misplaced gender identity is just one manifestation of this curse. For example, “I have a twelve-daughter uncle in the Cibao who believed that he’d been cursed by an old lover never to have male children. Fuku.” (Diaz 5) There is a clear element of misogyny in this viewpoint. But looking through the attribution to supernatural causes, scholars such as Katherine Weese have identified an underlying socio-historical construct for the struggle with masculinity: “in the context of a historical and political novel like Oscar Wao, the manner in which the novel incorporates unnatural events prompts the reader to question the natural/unnatural status of ideological constructs.” (Weese 89) Just like how British author Angela Carter uses
“the magical/ unnatural for feminist ends, not to promote belief in the supernatural, but rather to “demythologize” “material human practice”, the same dynamic is at play in Diaz’ work. Here, Diaz demythologes conventions of masculinity that are not ‘natural’ but are constructed by the human practice of European colonization and nationalist dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.” (Weese 90)
An important clarification need to be made with respect to the science fiction and magical elements in the style. While they provide a narrative framework as well as the aesthetic flavour to the novel, they do not detract from the basic socio-historical comment made within that framework. If anything, the juxtaposition of serious socio-historical discourse within a fancy literary construct makes reading quite refreshing. The same is applicable to the ways in which fukus and zafas are presented. While the magical elements aid the vivid imagery, the essential issues of colonialism, political oppression and nationalism are not eschewed. To elaborate, the fukus and zafas are located within acknowledged history and in contesting its claims.