Meeting society’s expectation on integration while paying attention to the inner struggles in Diaz’s Drown
Author Junot Diaz hits the idea of characters struggling to survive and live up to society’s expectations on the nose. There are many characters that show this internal struggle in his book Drown, but one in particular, Yunior’s father called Papi or Ramon, struggles the most. Although it does not seem like it, Ramon has difficulty meeting society’s standards about working hard and making it in America. Because of this, he truly feels an internal conflict with himself and ends up doubting his position as a man.
A piece of evidence that supports this notion can be seen in “Negocios”. Ramon is given the opportunity of owning his own business but decides against the idea. Diaz writes that Ramon struggled with the idea of “starting at the bottom, selling hotdogs.” Ramon wanted to enter American society further ahead than the rest of the immigrants and not go through “some slow upward crawl through the mud.” Ramon thinks he can cheat his way through society without any hard work to be done, however, he realizes that the business could potentially bring his family over to America faster. Diaz even states “Papi had difficulty separating the two threads of this friend’s beliefs, hat of negocios and that of familia, and in the end the two became impossibly intertwined” (Diaz 191). Ramon finally comes to terms with the idea that his selfishness of jumping the social class ladder will prolong the agony of his family in the Dominican Republic.
Ramon’s internal conflict is very simple, does he fast forward his way to the top of the social ladder, or does he work hard and make it that way? With more to lose, Ramon starts to doubt himself as a man and so do his friends. For instance, Jo-Jo, the person willing to give him the hot dog cart, even asks Papi “what sort of man are you then?” (Diaz 191). With his manhood, or machismo, at stake, Papi can only use excuses for the time being.
Diaz writes about Papi’s struggle with the American dream to show his readers that the path is not always clear cut and easy. We always hear about the inner city person who has so many societal influences dragging him down but he always makes it and becomes a star, a classic “rags to riches” story. Diaz wanted to truly show “white privileged” America that not every story ends up so beautiful. So, what if Ramon opened up that business? He would still be in one of the lower classes of society, just with more people to support on the side. Even people that work hard still struggle.
In conclusion, Diaz exposes the a painful truth about society, hard work itself does not solely get you anywhere nowadays. And with this struggle, society can drive you insane and make you question your social role, just like Ramon started to do. He finally realised that America is not the greatest country in the world, will the American consciousness ever do that?
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