English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Matthew D. Towles


Fukú Americanus, Gender Performativity, Hybridity, Performativity


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Other English Language and Literature


Junot Díaz’s renowned novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Oscar Wao), presents the brief and wondrous life of its main character, Oscar Wao, but also describes the exceptional lives of Lola and Belicia, his sister and mother, respectively. While the story’s title asserts an enthusiastic tone to the lives of Oscar—and the females in his family—the story actually reveals the victimization and demise of these characters. Though Díaz offers the spell of Fukú americanus, a Dominican superstition, Feminist Theorist Judith Butler provides a more advantageous, concrete explanation for the subjugation of these characters. Butler argues that culture dictates certain expectations for gender performances, but also punishes the individuals who do not live up to these expectations. However, this project will use Anzaldúa’s The Borderlands to complement Butler in order to translate her theory to a work of Latino American literature, and explain how these characters may be seen as hybrids. This thesis explores how Díaz’s novel realizes Butler’s postulate as the main characters do not live up to these expectations, and thus are penalized. The chapters in this thesis will be attributed each to one character, and in this order: Oscar, Lola, and Belicia. Each chapter will encompass a thorough examination into each character’s upbringing, personality, interpersonal and intrapersonal operations, in order to account for their deviation from cultural gender expectations. After each character composition is detailed, the chapters will discuss how each of these factors leads to the character’s downfall, confirming Butler’s Gender Performativity Theory. Finally, this project concludes in showing how all three characters, of differing genders and time periods, as well personal identities, are unable to depart from the gender roles established by Dominican culture without any repercussions.