Experiences deriving from cultural translation and diverse sorts of losses in the novel Drown

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer


Drown by Junot Diaz is a collection of ten brief vignettes in which Diaz makes use of an intentionally loose, almost peripatetic writing style to capture the multilayered and intricate experiences that the process of cultural translation involves. The ten sketches are interrelated, since they repeatedly go back to a number of incidents in the de las Casas family history as they make their transit from the capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, to their Quisqueya neighborhood in New Jersey.

The book proves extremely fragmented in structure because it follows the sometimes unassimilated and other times hyper-naturalistic memories of its protagonist, Yunior -Díaz’s “second self”- , as he discovers the troubled psyches and experiences of his closest kin and friends, most of whom are victims of some form of exclusion. Rather than following a lineal chronology or portraying a progressive maturation of the main character towards a better understanding of himself and those around him, the book presents a random and incomplete choice of snapshots of his 12 early experiences on the island and, later on, in Washington Heights, New Jersey

In perhaps the best in this group, “Drown,” the narrator, seduced by a male friend as they watch a porn video, seems intent on avoiding the friend when he returns from college on his summer holiday. The narrative never delves into the crisis or the loss of friendship it implies, but rather depends for its effect on the reader’s willingness to read glimpses of real emotion behind the mask of coolness. These glimpses come, as they often do in Diaz’s stories, through skillfully placed pairings. In the case of “Drown,” the pain of loss is conveyed through both the recollections of the friendship between the two young men offered by the narrator and through the seemingly unrelated descriptions of the mother’s yearning for the father who has left her despite knowing the relationship could bring her nothing but pain.

Both tales, etched with betrayal, lure the narrator and his mother nonetheless with recollections of the true feeling that had existed between the two “couples” before betrayal wrenched them apart. Dfaz uses video watching to good effect by pairing two scenes of video screenings-one leading to Beto’s seduction of the narrator as they watch a porno film, the other an attempt at catharsis as the narrator and his mother seek solace for the anger of betrayal that consumes them while watching a dubbed version of the film Bonny and Clyde.


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