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Published: 08-10-2019

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The Analysis of Junot Diaz's Character

Boldly forthright and bitterly candid, Junot Diaz’s “Drown” forges a sense of neighborhood culture that propels the improvement of numerous of the work’s main themes, foremost amongst them the retention of historically accepted implications of masculinity. Whereas subjects such as dissecting the infamous coming of age narrative or examining the futility of the ‘American Dream’ may appear far more readily accessible or simple to grasp, this central, cultural, and intellectual complex of machismo proves to be the correct agent that drives each these suggestions and countless other people explored by Diaz by way of his protagonist, Yunior.

The masculine insecurities that Yunior experiences can be anticipated as early as the opening lines of “Drown,” with the dismissal of his former buddy Beto on the basis of his homosexuality. Nevertheless, this rejection is a complex a single, as Yunior relates,

My mother tells me Beto’s home, waits for me to say something, but I hold watching the Tv. Only when she’s in bed do I put on my jacket and swing via the neighborhood to see. He’s a pato now but two years ago we were close friends and he would walk into the apartment with out knocking, his heavy voice rousing my mother from the Spanish of her area and drawing me up from the basement, a voice that crackled and created you feel of uncles or grandfathers (Diaz 91).

Here, whilst Yunior’s spurning of Beto is apparent, his simultaneous reminiscence of occasions past with his friend reveal a excellent deal more on the subject of masculinity. Rather than merely stating that he and Beto were no longer on good terms, Yunior makes positive to highlight Beto’s homosexuality with the Spanish term, ‘pato‘, a subtle act of desperation produced in order to distance himself from the cultural taboo such an orientation entails. However, even in these opening lines of “Drown,” Yunior starts to expose his genuine sentiments on the subject of masculinity. By emphasizing Beto’s dominance, his ‘heavy voice’ that roused his mother and drew him up from the basement, ‘a voice that crackled and produced you feel of uncles and grandfathers’, it becomes clear that Yunior is intrigued, if not obsessed, with the notion of machismo. Relating Beto to an uncle or grandfather figure, the respect and admiration Yunior has, or had, for his friend’s masculinity and confidence can be noted fairly clearly. Conversely, Yunior’s selection to wait until his mother falls asleep ahead of going to try and see Beto additional reveals his wish to hide any relation to a man who could be criticized in terms of masculinity, an effort that ironically reveals the fragility of his own sexual self-confidence. Commenting on their previous adventures with each other, Yunior explains,

We have been raging then, crazy the way we stole, broke windows, the way we pissed on people’s steps and then challenged them to come out and quit us (Diaz 92).

Emphasizing recklessness and abandon in a number of situations, Yunior attempts to showcase his and Beto’s facade of masculinity, as effectively as the bravado it culturally implies. And however it is eventually Yunior that displays the far more sensitive nature between the himself and Beto, as upon being caught shoplifting he recalls,

I started to cry. Beto didn’t say a word, his face stretched out and gray, his hand squeezing mine, the bones in our fingers pressing with each other (Diaz 99).

Whilst Beto, the pato, remains stoic in the face of prosecution, Yunior starts crying, shedding the stereotypical attributes of machismo. This irony, in conjunction with the powerful image of Yunior and Beto’s hands clenching together, additional complicates the currently multifaceted nature of Yunior’s sexuality, bringing into query his ‘masculine’ identity. In a scene that encapsulates the masculine sentiment of this Dominican-American enclave in New Jersey, Yunior’s buddy Alex, in reference to a gay man,

… just puts his head out the window. Fuck you! he shouts and then settles back in his seat, laughing. That is original, I say (Diaz 103).

Aside from merely highlighting the cruel attitude toward these with stereotypically deviant sexualities, this incident also shows that Yunior is not entirely spiteful or even apathetic towards homosexuals, seeming to virtually come to their defense when abused by Alex. As a result, by means of a multitude of subtle yet clear innuendos, Yunior’s latently complicated and delicate masculinity reveals itself to be infinitely more fragile than he attempts to make it appear.

In this case study of masculinity, arguably the most potent formative influence on Yunior, each sexually and emotionally, is his mother. The masculine burden Yunior feels compelled to carry with respect to his mother can be traced to their abandonment by his father, as described by his taking place upon his parents talking:

She’s speaking to my father, something she knows I disapprove of. He’s in Florida now, a sad guy who calls her and begs for cash. He swears that if she moves down there he’ll leave the lady he’s living with. These are lies, I’ve told her, but she still calls him. His words coil inside of her, wrecking her sleep for days (Diaz 100).

Embittered by his father’s abandonment, Yunior loses all respect for the man, calling him a ‘sad guy’ and a liar. Much more substantially than his private attitude towards his father, even so, is Yunior’s concern for the effects of his father’s words on his mother. The vivid imagery of his father’s destructive effects on his mother is a detail that relates the compassion and sensitivity of Yunior, as nicely as his outstanding quality of loyalty. When his father leaves, Yunior feels obliged to contribute to household income and care for his mother, two stereotypically masculine qualities. Even going so far as to entertain his mother, Yunior reflects,

Saturdays she asks me to take her to the mall. As a son I feel I owe her that much… Before we head out she drags us by means of the apartment to make confident the windows are locked… Placing my hand on the latch is not adequate-she wants to hear it rattle (Diaz 96).

Yunior’s bond with his mother is 1 that is only emboldened by the departure of his father, and the symbolic locking of the windows that occurs both here and at the end of the operate symbolizes his devotion and his mother’s insecurity. Just as she desires to hear the locks rattle to make sure they are secure, Yunior’s mother tends to make positive to hold on to and hold back her son. Stepping in to fill the hole his father left behind at such a young age is a duty that sophisticated Yunior’s notions of the masculine at an alarmingly early time in life, while simultaneously corrupting his views of acceptance in an effort to preserve the qualities that he believes to support his mother. This internal struggle of self identity, this divide in between the ‘masculine’ and the otherwise, boils more than when Yunior relates,

My mother sensed that anything was wrong and pestered me about it, but I told her to leave me the fuck alone, and my pops, who was home on a visit, stirred himself from the couch to slap me down. Mostly I stayed in the basement, terrified that I would finish up abnormal, a fucking pato, but he was my very best buddy and back then that mattered to me a lot more than something (Diaz 104).

Soon after Beto’s initial sexual advance, Yunior’s very carefully developed facade of masculinity appears to crumble around him, triggered subsequently by his mother. When asked what is bothering him, Yunior snaps back with an explicative, unable to include the terror he feels in that moment. His mother, the purpose for his machismo, the inspiration for the masculine identity he has constructed, is questioning him on an incident he can inform her nothing about an incident that would be damning in the harsh cultural enclave they reside in. This image of Yunior staying in the basement, afraid of ‘becoming’ homosexual, is therefore a symbol of his reluctance to come to terms with his sexuality, as effectively as one that represents the stress he faces to maintain the illusion of masculinity in a society that denounces any inkling of the otherwise.

The masculine tragedy of “Drown” can be encapsulated by Yunior’s commentary of a scene he watches on television with his mother:

The actors throw themselves around, passionate, but their words are plain and deliberate. It’s challenging to imagine anyone going via life this way (Diaz 107).

Yunior ironically goes through his life in the exact opposite way, one particular that is equally painful to watch. Filled with passion and emotion, Yunior is unable to express it, bottling feelings inside himself in order to comply with the preconceived cultural notions of masculinity surrounding him. Initially a spectator of those around him ‘drowning,’ such as his mother and Beto, Yunior is ultimately overwhelmed himself, closing the window on each his literal and emotional prospective, a victim to suffocation at the hands of cultural expectations.
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