Chapter Four: Sentimental Education (1988-1992)
This chapter explores Oscar's time at Rutgers, and introduces the narrator, Yunior, who was Oscar's roommate and Lola's boyfriend. Yunior is a big guy, with an even bigger heart. The narrator begins to tell his own story, saying “it” (his involvement with the de Leons) started when he was jumped in New Brunswick on the way home from a club. Lola was the only one who came and took care of him when he was recovering. He admits he cared about Lola even though he thinks he is not supposed to care about anything, and despite the fact that she is not the kind of girl he usually goes for because she is tall with no breasts and huge hips and a butt. Yunior (the name of the narrator is first revealed on p. 169) describes his first kiss with Lola when she asks him to drive her home.
When Oscar tries to kill himself over a girl at the end of sophomore year, Yunior steps up and rooms with him the next year in the dorm called Demarest. Lola is as surprised as Yunior is. Yunior has always hated Demarest because it is full of artists, freaks, and losers. Oscar and Yunior get a room specified in the “writing” section. Yunior rooms with Oscar partially because of Lola but also because he would have had to room off campus otherwise and he could not afford it. When Yunior moves in, Oscar tells him he is cursed, but Yunior is not fazed by it. In retrospect, he thinks he probably should have run the other way. Yunior states he has never met a Dominican like Oscar. Oscar is a nerd who writes fifteen to twenty pages a day, and puts signs on their door in fantasy languages from his books. When Yunior comes home at night, he often finds Oscar watching Akira, a Japanese post-apocalyptic film, or role-playing. Yunior admits that Oscar is a considerate roommate, and Yunior does his part to return the favor by cooking dinner and reading some of Oscar’s writing. Yunior tries to give advice to Oscar on how to get girls, but he also believes that Oscar is too nerdy and too fat to get a girl. In addition, Oscar does not want to change. When Yunior’s girlfriend Suriyan dumps him for sleeping with a girl named Awilda, Yunior makes Oscar his project. He takes him running every day. After a while, Oscar quits. Yunior gets angry—Oscar resists, and Yunior pushes him. Lola calls from abroad (in Spain) and they fight—she tells him never to speak to her again. Oscar tried to apologize to Yunior but Yunior did not apologize back and remained cool towards Oscar. Yunior describes how his friends taunt Oscar “Tú no eres nada de dominicano” (You are not one bit Dominican) to which Oscar would protest that he is. On Halloween, Oscar dresses up as Doctor Who, from the TV show; Yunior thought he looked like “that fat homo” Oscar Wilde, their friend Melvin heard “Oscar Wao” and that’s how Oscar got his nickname. Oscar falls in love with a beautiful crazy Puerto Rican goth girl named Jenni Muñoz, also known as La Jablesse. She once turned Yunior down, and he is still a little put off by it. Oscar and Jenni become friends and started to hang out, much to Yunior’s surprise. Yunior admits he reads Oscar’s journal to find out what they talk about, which is mostly poetry and literature. Oscar starts jogging again and making more of an effort to look good. Then Jenni gets a boyfriend and stops hanging out with Oscar. Oscar is depressed and stops writing. Yunior calls Lola because he is worried. Two weeks later Oscar walks in on her and her new boyfriend naked. Oscar freaks out, insults her, and rips posters off her walls. Yunior stops him, but from then on Oscar is thought of as a psycho, and that is how that school year ends. The last night rooming together, they get drunk, and Yunior leaves. Oscar continues to drink and walks onto a train bridge in New Brunswick. When the train is coming, Oscar sees the Golden Mongoose, they look into each other’s eyes, and then it is gone. Oscar has left a suicide note for Yunior, Lola, Beli and Jenni. He jumps off the bridge and lands on the median and lives. Yunior refers to this period as the Fall. Beli, Yunior, and Lola visit Oscar at the hospital. Lola and her mother are fighting. Oscar tells Yunior he believes the curse made him do it, and Yunior does not believe him. Lola and Yunior have a brief conversation about whether or not Oscar should live in Demarest again, and Yunior leaves without fulfilling his desire to kiss Lola. The next year at school Oscar showed up at Yunior’s dorm and they have a short conversation updating each other on their lives. Oscar visits Yunior occasionally but Yunior never visits him. During winter finals, Yunior runs into Lola on the bus and asks her on a date. She accepts reluctantly. They start a relationship and Yunior promises never to lie to Lola. In the spring, Yunior moves back into Demarest with Oscar. Yunior again admits to reading Oscar’s journal, reporting that the fall after the Fall was dark for Oscar. He would take midnight drives in his mother’s car, sometimes almost falling asleep at the wheel, and then at the last minute waking up. Analysis In this chapter, Yunior is revealed as the narrator. Yunior is hypersexual, athletic and knows how to charm a woman; thus, he is Oscar’s foil—by acting as the quintessential Dominican male, Yunior provides sharp contrast to Oscar. When Oscar warns Yunior that he is cursed, Yunior does not listen because he does not yet believe in the curse at this point. Looking back, he says he is old school now, but back then, he was “just real fucking dumb.” Here Yunior implies that not believing in curses is dumb because, as he said in the prologue, even if he does not believe in the curse it will believe in him. Oscar’s nickname come about when he is dressed as the TV show character Doctor Who, but Yunior thinks he looks like Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde was a writer and a homosexual. Although Oscar is not gay, he is a writer, and his nerdiness makes him an outsider, just as Oscar Wilde's homosexuality put him on the outskirts of society at the time. In some ways, Oscar de León embraces his outsider status—he does not want Yunior’s help to become normal because he knows he will never be normal. Instead, he just continues to be himself and hope that that will work for him in his mission to get girls. Jenni Muñoz's nickname is La Jablesse. La Jablesse (also known as Lajabless or la Diabless) is a Trinidad demon. The demon is a woman with one human foot and one hoof, and is known for leading men into thorny bushes and leaving them to die. While Jenni herself is not supernatural, her character is likened to that of a demon, and in the end of her relationship with Oscar, she may as well be La Jablesse, as Oscar's only wish after losing her is to die. Oscar’s suicide attempt is another manifestation of the way he behaves in love, as demonstrated by his rash behavior with Ana Obregón, and by the earlier suicide attempt that caused Lola to ask Yunior to live with Oscar for their junior year.
Oscar's encounter with the Mongoose again brings the magical and supernatural element into the story. The same mongoose that was able to help Belicia out of the cane field appears to Oscar right before he jumps off the bridge and lives. If the no face man is the harbinger of the fuku, then the Mongoose is the harbinger of zafa. Yunior and Lola fall in love in this chapter, and Lola has Yunior promise never to lie. Yet, the readers already know that Yunior lives a cheating lifestyle, something that is considered very Dominican in the novel Even with Yunior trying his best not to be the person he knows he is and to be better for Lola, there is dramatic irony in the fact that his failure is inevitable. This is one of the pitfalls of being the Dominican male that is glorified throughout the novel. Given this new perspective, the question is raised: Are Yunior and Oscar just simply on opposite sides of the spectrum? Oscar wants love and sex and cannot get either, while Yunior has too much sex and no ability to remain faithful to the one he loves.
Famous quotes containing the words education and/or sentimental:
“A two-year-old can be taught to curb his aggressions completely if the parents employ strong enough methods, but the achievement of such control at an early age may be bought at a price which few parents today would be willing to pay. The slow education for control demands much more parental time and patience at the beginning, but the child who learns control in this way will be the child who acquires healthy self-discipline later.”
—Selma H. Fraiberg (20th century)
“The sentimental want to be thrilled by everything.”
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)