Diaz explores the appeal of becoming American through the eyes of an immigrant in Drown
In the novel Drown, author Junot Diaz, continuously explores the theme of the American Dream, and how the concept of this theme is different for everyone. The novel itself, comprised of 10 separate stories, most which tell the story of a Dominican boy named Yunior. Yunior’s family is abandoned by his father for years until he sent for the family to migrate to America with him. Throughout the entire story, there are many accounts of characters expressing their way of accomplishing the “American Dream” or simply what it means to them, characters such as Yunior’s mother, Yunior’s father Ramon, Yunior himself and another character by the name of Ysrael.
The American Dream is a cultural idea that American citizens all have equal rights and opportunities to achieve success through hard work and determination. As acknowledged by sociologist Robert Hauhart, the American Dream is among the United States’ most recognizable and revered symbols of our national heritage (Hauhart). To some Americans, the American Dream consist of fancy and expensive cars, houses, clothes and jewelry. However for some Americans neither concepts apply to them. Immigrants who migrate from other countries to the U.S. might have a different definition of what their American Dream may be. Immigrants in the U.S., however, are more likely to define the American dream as the pursuit of opportunity, a good job, owning a home and in many cases, safety from war or persecution (Lazuk). In some countries, immigrants flee their homelands just due to religious restrictions that doesn’t allow them to practice their religion of choice. Specifically Hispanic immigrants have different outlooks on the concept of the American dream. Hispanic immigrant’s American dream for the most part is usually going to the U.S. to make money to send back to their family or to possibly start a new life in a country with more opportunities for economic growth than their own lands (Coelho). There are many different ways to explain the American Dream, but most importantly it is defined differently depending on the person whom someone may ask what their American dream is. America and the American dream itself, is seen as a beacon of hope for people all around the globe, hoping to live out and accomplish their goals and dreams (Youth).
Ysrael, the main character from the chapter of the same name, is a young man who is horribly disfigured. When Ysrael was just a child a hungry pig ate his face, leaving him with only half of an actual face. In the story it is revealed that Ysrael is seeking help to get his face reconstructed back to normality. Ysrael’s American dream is much different from what a typical persons may be. Ysrael’s dream consists of going to America to see the best doctors in the world. Getting his face fixed just to get it repaired isn’t all Ysrael is hoping for. Growing up in his neighborhood people would make nasty comments towards Ysrael, calling him no face. He would also be relentlessly beaten by the neighborhood children and abused by his parents by making him sleep in a smokehouse. In one occasion is he tackled onto the ground and almost raped by four kids. For Ysrael, his American dream is much more different than the other characters because he doesn’t ask for wealth or fame but only for his health and own wellbeing.
In similar fashion another character, Yunior’s father, Ramon expresses his strong desire to accomplish his version of the American dream. In the beginning of the novel it is revealed to readers that Ramon abandons his family in America and creates a new family with his new wife Nilda. He then brings his family over to America and later abandons them again for the Puerto Rican woman he has been seeing behind his wife’s back. Ramon’s version of the American dream consists of moving to America, establishing himself and owning his own business. “Papi wanted a negocio of his own, that was his dream, but he balked at starting at the bottom, selling hot dogs” (Drown pg. 190). This sentence reveals Ramon’s American dream of owning his own business. It also suggest that Ramon strongly disliked the idea of starting a business at the very bottom by investing and owning a hotdog stand. The passage also mentions how Ramon wanted a big leap into owning a business, that crawling slowly through the mud was not ideal for him. Ramon is later proposed with the idea of becoming a superintendent for new apartments that are being built, by his friend Chuito. He jumps at the opportunity of wanting the position because it allows him to not only bring his family over, but allows him control over these apartments and become a boss. This is a grasp at his American dream by wanting his own company. This makes him feel like he is closer to that goal, by preparing him for when he gets his opportunity to have his very own company. There is later an event where Ramon injures himself on the job and contemplates suing the company. He describes this as a dream come true, one that could grant him so much money that he wouldn’t have a worry in the world. This is quickly shot down when all of his friends and family members convince him to drop talks of a lawsuit because he would lose it and be fired. Ramon’s American dream is clear, he wants to climb the ranks and ascend up the economic ladder and achieve his American dream of owning a business. Even though it is not revealed exactly, if Ramon achieves this dream but he does come close to it by becoming a superintendent at the apartment complex and this as Ramon described is a dream come true. This implies that even though it isn’t his own business it is a step in the right direction for him.
The next character who has an American dream of her own or hopes of one would be Yunior’s mother. Throughout the story it is revealed to readers that Yunior’s mother whom he calls mami is commonly mistreated by her husband Ramon. Ramon takes money from Mami’s family promising to bring Mami and the kids over once he gets enough money to, but Ramon doesn’t send for them until many years later. Mami’s American dream, is different from the other characters. She has a longing to be with her beloved husband and to reunite their family so they can ultimately be whole again, despite knowing about him cheating and abandoning her once he moves to America. This can be supported by the text stating “Two years after he left, Papi wrote her saying he was coming for us and like an innocent Mami believed him. After being alone for two years she was ready to believe anything” (Drown pg. 82). It is revealed to the reader that even though Ramon has pretty much abandoned Mami she still longed and hoped that he would send for her and the kids when she received his letters. Later in the events of the story, Ramon eventually does come back for Mami and the kids to bring them to America, which ultimately makes Mami very happy and satisfied. This is truly nullified by the fact that after some time after they reach America, Ramon abandons the family again. Tearing Mami’s American dream away from her which reveals later in the story how Mami becomes unemotional and distraught. Yunior describes how he walks into their apartment shocked to find her their sometimes because of how quiet she always was.
Last but not least, the main character Yunior, has more of an idea of what the American dream is and how to accomplish it but opts to not set his sights on it. In the story Aurora, Yunior talks about him and his then girlfriend Aurora have this dream that one day they’ll be married with kids, live in a big blue house and even had hobbies that kept them busy. This is the basic definition of what the American dream means for most people, but due to the nullifying fact that Aurora is a stone drug abuser, Yunior knows he can’t simply build a life with her. In the story Drown, it is revealed to the readers how Yunior is still in high school and his best friend is leaving for college. Yunior is struggling in high school because he doesn’t go and doesn’t really do much of his work. It is seen as strangely odd because Yunior says how his friend, Beto has the opportunity to go to college and leave his dangerous drug and crime infested neighborhood. This is part of the American dream for most people. That they should go to college and leave their neighborhoods behind, in order to climb the economical ranks in society. Yunior obviously sees this but it is implied he doesn’t take this opportunity as Beto does. Yunior instead finishes school and becomes the neighborhood drug dealer. Later it is revealed he quits drug dealing and gets a job selling game tables but he doesn’t leave his mischievous ways behind because he stills money from the very same job.
As it has already been pointed out, everyone’s American dream is totally different. For some it could be reuniting with one’s family, economical gains, or even the health care and wellbeing of a person or their family. This concept shows how powerful the term American dream is and the lengths to which some people will go to achieve this dream. It also shows the diversity in the beliefs of what the American dream actually represents for some people. Being an individualistic country America allows for everyone to have the idea of mindset of what their American dream truly is.
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