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The Role of Junot Diaz in Drown

The effects and significance of unequal powers between males and females appearing in literature has been a common topic in literary criticism. While a universal way of reading texts from a gender method is but to be defined. Kimmel, Hearn & Connell (2005) argued that all literary texts involving characters show a certain degree of the author’s supports to either masculinity or femininity. This essay adopts the definitions of masculinity and fragmented masculinity proposed by Gardiner (2005), Hofestede (1998) and Whitehead (2002) and argues that Drown written by Junot Diaz portrays the concept of fragmented masculinity. This paper initial defines fragmented masculinity. Then, the significance of the absent father figures of protagonists and the protagonists’ objection towards feminine behaviors as reflected in Ysrael, Aguantando, No Face and Edison, New Jersey will be featured.

The idea of fragmented masculinity was first coined by Whitehead which refers to a male’s misinterpretations and failure to attain wholeness of masculinity (Whitehead, 2002). Masculinity in literary context refers to the description and enforcement of confined roles and identities of male in the text (Gardiner, 2005 Hofestede, 1998). It contains emphasis of possession of qualities, or characteristics regarded as standard of or acceptable to a man. Argued by Gardiner (2005), it is a social building but not an in-born one. Different males have to construct their personal masculinity all through their lives based on their personal cultures and others’ perceptions so to type component of their personal identity. It implies that the notion of masculinity may possibly vary from 1 spot to another. When males fail to uncover or construct the frequently accepted masculinity, this will lead to fragmentation of masculinity. They can not totally recognize and realize the identities and roles of getting a man. In a lot of scenarios, they will show a heavy reliance of father figures, robust objection to any feminist thought and abnormal violent actions to show case their masculinity in an abnormal way. But these are just fragments alternatively of a accurate masculine wholeness which only serves as a kind of psychological compensation (Reeser, 2010).

The text’s portrayal of fragmented masculinity can be discussed in two elements. Initial, characters in Drown rely heavily on their father figures to learn about masculinity. In Ysrael, it tells the tragic story of the narrator, later revealed as Yunior and his older brother, Rafa. Both their father and mother have been absent in the story major to Yunior and Rafa getting left behind. Without having sufficient parental guidance, the two boys bullied Ysrael whose face was mangled by a pig when he was an infant. He has lengthy been wearing a mask and to know what is behind it, Rafa plans to take off his mask. At the moment when Yunior remains unknown to Rafa’s plan, there is a conversation with Ysrael in a kite field. “We couldn’t locate it, Rafa said. How stupid are you? Exactly where did you get that? I asked. Nueva York, he stated. From my father. No shit! Our father’s there too! I shouted” The captioned conversation reveals that survival of the entire family members can be extremely dependent upon fathers. Argued by Gardiner (2005), males will assume a role model as the basis while constructing masculinity and presence of father figure is an essential element for a full construction. But in the captioned situation, their father’s abandonment has caused the absence of father figures in their lives which have led to fragmented masculinity. This is portrayed by their cruelty on Ysrael at a later scene.    

In a later story Aguantando, we can discover that the protagonist even have adverse views towards their father. “when Abuelo was around (and awake)he talked to me about the excellent old days, when a man could still make a living from his finca, when the United States wasn’t some-factor people planned on” “he was the soldier in the photo. He was a cloud of cigar smoke, the traces of which could nonetheless be discovered on the uniforms he’d left behind”. In such a limited closet when their father cannot be a part model in their minds, the principal power and force shifting their masculinity becomes a duty of their peers. To fulfill their desires of being a man, they can only rely on a collective vision of masculinity as there has been practically nothing for them to comply with. Sadly in several situations, it becomes a type of hyper-masculinity (Marsiglio & Pleck, 2005). Hyper-masculinity is a essential consequence of absence of father figure as they can only be very cruel and selfish to sustain their social status and masculinity amongst their peers. This happens throughout the complete novel: in Ysrael, the males bully Yarael in Aguantando, they show a tremendous desire of protagonists for girls. ” I’m going to go crazy—chinga all my girls and then chinga absolutely everyone else’s”   Lack of masculinity lastly leads to an overwhelming masculinity. They have no way but to over-exert masculinity on other individuals who are weaker than them, on girls who are regarded as fragile so to keep a type of psychological compensation (Newkirk, 2002). This is a way for them to prove their own existences in the globe. On the other hand, it also demonstrates their prolonged oppressions more than society via their expressions of patriarchal privilege in which they have been lacking of. Riofrio (2003) argued this as a way of Diaz allowance for us “to take into account Rafa as a stand-in for the hegemonizing method of masculinity”, even though at last it fails and remains a misinterpreted and fragmented masculinity.

The second argument falls on the protagonists’ sturdy reluctance to femininity. In the novel, empathy, as a feminine act, is being portrayed as harmful and problematic. In Edison, New Jersey, the narrator tends to make a conscious decision not to empathize when faced with his companion Wayne’s desire to commit adultery: “I truly want to pile her, he tells me. Perhaps on a single of the Madisons. Man, I say, cutting my eyes towards him. Do not you have a wife or anything? He gets quiet. I’d nonetheless like to pile her, he says defensively. And what will that do? Why does it have to do anything? Twice this year Wayne’s cheated on his wife and I’ve heard it all, the just before and the after. Wayne can be a moody guy and this is one of those nights he slouches in the driver’s seat and swerves via traffic, riding other people’s bumpers like I’ve told him not to do. I do not want a collision or a 4-hour silent treatment so I attempt to overlook that I feel his wife is very good individuals and ask him if Charlene’s given him any signals. He slows the truck down. Signals like you wouldn’t think, he says.” The narrator initially shows his empathy to Wayne’s wife. Nevertheless, with the story’s progression, empathy brings damaging consequences. At final, the narrator sacrifices Wayne’s wife for a peaceful function-day creating her the victim of this rejection of empathy. Such victimization of women is closely related to their association as empathetic and feminine beings. Showing empathy can possibly diminish the existing masculinity of the narrator which he has lacked of (Martin & Finn, 2010). Their daily struggles to steer clear of any possible feminine nature in their life can also be observed as a important part to craft their personal masculinity so they have a tendency not to be emphatic.

From yet another viewpoint, masculinity is in reality fragile in their minds. In a scene of yet another story No Face when Ysrael is bullied by his peers, there says: “We’re going to make you a girl, the fat one says and he can hear the words echoing by means of the meat of the fatboy’s physique. He wants to breathe but his lungs are as tight as pockets. You ever been a girl before? I betcha he hasn’t. It ain’t a lot of fun.” Assault of Ysrael is made more terrifying by the threat of rape. Action of raping here suggests an implied meaning that the boys who are threatening Ysrael can equally be raped suggesting their underneath weaknesses (Jayasena, 2007). A related scenario in the opening story Ysrael, there shows a equivalent sign of the protagonists’ reluctance to empathy. “Where did you get that? I asked, Nueva York, he said. From my father. No shit! Our father’s there too! I shouted, I looked at Rafa, who, for an instant, frowned. What the hell are you wearing that mask for anyway? Rafa asked, I’m sick, Ysrael mentioned. It should be hot. Not for me. Do not you take it off? Not till I get better, I’m going to have an operation soon. You greater watch out for that, Rafa said. Those doctors will kill you quicker than the Guardia……” This conversation reveals Yunior’s initial understanding to empathy and his eagerness to be emphatic. Yunior shows his empathy by means of his words of caring like “It must be hot” and “Don’t you take it off?”. His empathy reaches a peak point when he abandons his brother’s side in order to catch up with Ysreal who has run ahead of them. “Are you nevertheless into wrestling? I asked. He turned to me and something rippled beneath the mask. How did you know that? I heard, I said…… The mask twitched, I realized he was smiling and then my brother brought his arm about and smashed the bottle on leading of his head. It exploded, the thick bottom spinning away like a crazed eyeglass and I stated. Holy fucking shit……Roll him on his back, my brother mentioned and we did, pushing like crazy, Rafa took off his mask and threw its pinning into the grass. His left ear was a nub and you could see the thick veined slab of his tongue by means of a hole in his cheek,,,,The damage looked old but I still jumped back and said. Please Rafa, let’s go! Rafa crouched and using only two of his fingers, turned Ysrael’s head from side to side.” But exactly at this moment, Rafa breaks his continuous silence by bringing the bottle crashing down on the unsuspecting Ysrael. Arguably the most strong portion in the novel (Riofrio, 2003), this scene implies a tragic fact that Ysrael is unable to maintain his empathy in his neighborhood, but to be a cruel man to sustain his masculinity so do his social status. Even so, they can in no way accomplish masculine wholeness as they by no means have a complete understanding of the notion of masculinity, what has left is a fragmented masculinity complete of misinterpretations and misunderstandings.

In the captioned evaluation, there argues Junot Diaz’s Drown portrays the thought of fragmented masculinity. The two aforementioned arguments have effectively supported the thesis. In truth, the notion of gender is widespread in Junot Diaz’s writing (Jarrett & Delgadillo, 2010). Reading of his text may possibly stick to the approach as suggested in this essay, which shall be able to give us a greater understanding of his writing and himself.


Gardiner, J. K. (2005). Men, masculinities, and feminist theory in Michael S. K., Jeff H., & Connell, R.W. (Eds.), Handbook of studies on guys & masculinities (pp. 35-50). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Hofstede, G. H. (1998). Masculinity and femininity: the taboo dimension of national cultures.Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Jarrett, G. A. & Delgadillo, T. (2010). Latino Literature and the African Diaspora. New York: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Jayasena, N. (2007). Contested masculinities: crises in colonial male identity from JosephConrad to Satyajit Ray. New York: Routledge. Marsiglio, W. & Pleck, J. H. (2005). Fatherhood and masculinities in Michael S. K., Jeff H., & Connell, R.W. (Eds.), Handbook of studies on males & masculinities (pp. 249-269). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Martin, H. & Finn, S. E. (2010). Masculinity and femininity in the MMPI-two and MMPI-A.Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press. Michael, S. K., Jeff, H. & Connell, R.W. (2005). Handbook of studies on males & masculinities. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Newkirk, T. (2002). Misreading masculinity : boys, literacy, and well-known culture. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann. Reeser, T. W. (2010). Masculinities in theory: an introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Riofrio, J. (2003). Situating Latin American Masculinity: Immigration, empathy and emasculation in Junot Diaz’s Drown, Junio XXVIII Num 1, 23-38. Whitehead, S.M. (2002). Men and Masculinities: Important Themes and New Directions. Malden, MA: Polity Press.    
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